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Investigation finds commuters walked alongside an electrified third rail after evacuating a train stuck in snow

Passengers were stranded on the service for several hours Photo:

A catalogue of errors led to passengers walking alongside live electrified rails as they evacuated a Southeastern train stranded by snow last year, a report by investigators has revealed.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report said that commuters began abandoning a train between Charing Cross and Dartford, after it became stuck due to freezing conditions.

The report found that as passengers jumped down from the train in March 2018, they were able to walk along train tracks next to an electrified third rail that was still live.

Snowfall and low temperatures particularly affect trains running off electrified rails, making it difficult to pick up power

Heavy snow and freezing conditions brought on by the ‘Beast from the East” were causing chaos for travellers across the region in March last year. In this particular incident, investigators found that people began to get agitated as their train became stuck outside Lewisham station.

The train was a busy commuter service and the onboard toilet was out of service.

No plans had been put in place for evacuating the passengers, and customers took matters in their own hands by forcing their way off the train.

Viewers footage from the incident captures passengers stepping over the third rail, which was still live.

To be stuck on a train that is not moving can be an unpleasant experience. Add to this a crowded commuter service, limited information and no toilet facilities, and the result is a situation that none of us would want to be part of."

– Simon French, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents

The train had first had to stop to wait for a service further up the line that couldn’t more because of ice.

Investigators found that rather than divert the train to a different platform, managers sent this train behind one that was already stuck, meaning neither of them could move.

The RAIB says that seven more trains ran into trouble as a result.

Passengers captured the moments after they began trying to leave the stranded service

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch says train staff didn't communicate well with passengers.

Southeastern have apologised and say they will be providing training to more than three and a half thousand staff, to ensure they are well-rehearsed on emergency procedures.

Network Rail is now looking to make a number of changes including the installation of conductor rail heating and there will also be a trial of a more effective anti-icer being tested on the Sheerness line.

In addition, Southeastern is exploring the use of ice-breaker shoes on some of its passenger trains.