On Monday evening, 8th July, a London Underground train out of Finchley Central on the Northern Line was given a target speed to proceed out of the station – and after approximately 2 train lengths was asked to apply an emergency brake.
Upon taking this action, the train operator became aware of a train approaching from Mill Hill – which is a single track line.
The driver was forced to take emergency action – to reverse and move back to Finchley Central, avoiding a potential head on collision with the train heading south on the same section of track.
Both trains were in service and carrying passengers and it was only due to the swift action of the driver that a potentially fatal head on collision was avoided.
This terrifying near miss has led to the RMT Union asking for answers from London Transport to its allegations that massive breaches of safety enabled this near miss, claiming that a ‘cuts and targets led culture’ on London Underground is compromising safety, exposing what the RMT describe as ‘the lethal nonsense of driverless operation’.
This indicates the possibility that the train coming form Mill Hill was a driverless service.
RMT has raised the issue directly with London Underground demanding answers to a range of questions, specifically how two trains could end up routed onto the same section of track into a potential collision environment and calling for a full safety investigation by the rail regulator, the ORR.
So far, London Underground are playing down the incident, which, given the potential catastrophic consequences of an underground collision, demonstrates a questionable set of priorities.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow says: ‘Nothing exposes the lethal gamble of driverless tube operation better than the incident on the Mill Hill line on Monday night.
‘If it hadn’t been for the swift and decisive action of a Northern Line driver we could have had a head-on collision on our hands with fatal consequences.
‘RMT will not allow tube chiefs to sweep this serious incident under the carpet and we are demanding a full investigation by the regulator to establish just how two tube trains ended up routed onto a single section of track travelling towards each other.
‘With massive cuts in the pipeline under the Government spending review allocations to TFL, RMT is stepping up the safety fight. This union will not allow tube safety to be compromised by a cavalier management that choose to ignore the warnings and questions raised by our safety reps.’
The fact that this incident is a hostage to union position-taking should not discount its seriousness.
Had matters turned out differently – with, say, the Finchly Central driver not having enough time to reverse or not having sufficient presence of mind to do so, there would be no issue here of union opportunism, only of national shock, personal grieving and governmental intervention.