18th November 2021

Today was the day I almost had a SPAD!

It’s fair to say that over the past few weeks my work roster and the fact that we have been moving house has left me some what fatigued. I’ve had a run of 1AM alarm calls. I like to be in bed for around 6 when I’m up at that time but having a young family it’s not always possible to get as much sleep as I would like.

Today was a 1AM alarm call to work a 3:09 departure from Tonbridge to Acton conveying 20 hopper wagons with a total weight of just under 2000 tons. My planned route was via Redhill, Clapham Junction and the West London Line.

I had a slightly delayed departure due to problems with the telephones in the signal box. ( I think that’s code for i was having a cheeky 5 mins) The shunter was unable to get hold of the signaller to present the train as ready to leave. Other than that it was a pretty uneventful journey until I neared Clapham Junction.

Being routed via the WLL I’m required to get checked down to a red signal before Clapham junction before being signalled over a 20mph crossover and into platform 16. This is a routine move and one I have done many times before, Nothing out of the ordinary. I sighted the 2 yellows as normal and acknowledged the AWS and applied the brakes. I was travelling at about 40 MPH. As I passed the single yellow I further slowed the train to 15mph preparing to stop at the red signal.

Everything after that is a bit of a blur, the next thing I remember is cancelling the AWS for the red signal still doing about 15MPH I quickly applied the brakes and just as I did the signal cleared to 1 yellow. I would have stopped had it not cleared fortunately. My conclusion to this is that I had a micro sleep. If it wasn’t for the the AWS I’m pretty sure I would have gone past the red.

Micro sleeps are a real problem if your fatigued they can come on without warning and may only last for a couple of seconds but that’s long enough to cause an incident. In this situation I had done everything correctly and got the train speed down nice and early for the red light. Having done so I relaxed and that’s when it happen. A lot of Spads happen at low speed because of this. You have slowed the train down and taken action against the signal, therefore you have reduced your perceived risk. However your workload has now been reduced and you are crawling along towards a red. At low speed you can lead yourself into a false sense of security, and allow yourself to become distracted and loses situational awareness.

I’ve got no issues in sharing my mistakes. We are only human and we all make them. What’s important is that we learn from them. If you know the risks you can mitigate against them. You should always learn from your mistakes but it’s better to learn from other peoples. As for me, I think I need an early night and maybe an extra cup of wake up juice in the mornings.

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