Signals passed at danger (SPADs) have the potential to lead to serious train accidents, including derailments and train collisions, which can result in injuries, fatalities, significant train damage, and severe reputational damage. While the number of SPADs has decreased steadily since the implementation of several recent technologies that protect the train and train drivers, the underlying human factors issues that continue to cause SPADs are not well understood. Further to this, the culture around SPAD investigations is not optimal and this is, in part, due to a lack of debate and discussion around how responsibility is shared for SPADs between train drivers, wider signalling design factors, and company processes that may lead to SPADs.
This research has directly supported the SPAD Risk Reduction Strategy by delivering on several key recommendations from the Industry Human Factors SPAD Review. The project has undertaken a technical review of SPADs that have occurred in the past decade and analysed them using new Safety Management Intelligence System classifications to find the underlying causes. The project has also identified how responsibility can be shared in SPAD incidents.
The project forms part of Train Accidents Risk Group’s programme of work. The project outputs are intended to help inform rail company and industry SPAD strategies. Successful implementation through changes to industry practices and companies’ safety management systems, will enable more targeted prevention of SPADs and better management of SPAD incidents.
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