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Unlit walkway at Hexham sidings

Report Number:

May 2012

  • Concern

Concerns have been raised about an unlit walkway at Hexham sidings. As some services are made up of units coupled together with no walkthrough, Drivers have to change ends at the sidings by alighting the train, walking alongside the track and boarding the cab at the opposite end.
Drivers are concerned that without adequate lighting the walkway presents a slip, trip, fall hazard, especially during the recent icy weather when the walkway was not gritted. Although a risk assessment has been carried out, it is understood that this has not been agreed by all relevant parties. The reporter comments that staff have been told they should use the bardic lamps provided to light their way. However, it is felt that bardic lamps are not fit for this task and so a more suitable means of lighting the walkway should be provided.

 Could Northern

  • Carry out a risk assessment on the walkway that is agreed by all relevant parties?
  • Investigate other lighting solutions for the walkway?



  • Response

 Response from Northern Rail

Northern has introduced a coupled working in the north east which operates on a morning peak service from Hexham into Newcastle in connection with the provision of additional capacity under the Government's HLOS strategy.  This coupled working normally comprises two trains without end gangways. A short walkway adjacent to the turnaround siding was therefore constructed by Network Rail to facilitate the turnaround of the empty stock for this coupled working. This enables Drivers to climb out of the cab of one train and into the cab of the adjacent coupled train.

Northern carried out a risk assessment of this method of changing ends. This included involving the local Health and Safety Representative.  This local risk assessment only considered issues which were outside the generic risk assessment which is in place for Drivers, and a safe method of work was agreed.

There are numerous examples around the network where Drivers are required to get on or off trains without specific, local lighting.  Drivers are issued with torches to cater for this situation.  There are no local or specific circumstances at Hexham which are any different to this, and we could see no justification for providing localised lighting. The fitment of specific local lighting would not be a reasonably practicable control measure.  Adequate lighting to perform the task is provided by the vehicle lights supplemented by the Driver's torch.

The walkway has been constructed with a non-slip surface and no issues were experienced with ice during the recent cold spell.  We have, however, said that this will be monitored, Driver feedback obtained, and the situation will be kept under review. If a problem emerges, we will consider additional control measures.

It is correct that the local Safety Representative has not formally signed off the risk assessment, although it was agreed on the day.  In the meantime, the Full Time Officer has accepted that the method of work is fit for purpose and the train has now been working with no problems experienced.