Badly damaged front of CrossCountry passenger train at night

Freight driver sentenced to 8 months imprisonment for causing crash

Badly damaged front of CrossCountry passenger trainImage Office of Rail and Road

A driver working for a British freight operator has been given a jail sentence for causing a crash with a passenger train. The accident, almost two years ago and during lockdown procedures, resulted in a freight locomotive colliding with a lightly loaded passenger train. Including the errant driver, seven people were involved. Despite extensive damage to both trains and the infrastructure, no injuries were reported. However, the courts gave no allowance for the lack of injury and handed down a custodial sentence.

Courts in the UK have sentenced driver Mark Hubble to eight months imprisonment for his part in causing a serious rail accident. The sentence has however been suspended for 18 months, subject to several conditions, meaning Hubble can most likely avoid imprisonment. The prosecution was brought by the Office of Rail and Road, the government-appointed, independent watchdog.

Frightening circumstances

Mark Andrew Hubble has been found guilty of breaching Section 7a of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, a UK law designed to safeguard workers and the general public from dangerous behaviour and practices in the workplace. Hubble had been found guilty of sending and receiving messages on his mobile phone during the course of his journey, while driving a locomotive owned and operated by DB Cargo (UK) Limited on Monday, 23 March 2020. Such behaviour is also illegal in the UK if driving a road vehicle, and has resulted in several fatal accidents.

Portrait of Ian Prosser the chief rail investigator
Ian Prosser is the chief rail investigator (Office of Rail and Road)

The circumstances of the accident were frightening, to say the least. After entering the siding at Bromsgrove station, in the West Midlands, near Birmingham, Hubble lost concentration due to reading a picture message on his mobile phone. Hubble failed to control the speed of his locomotive, which struck the buffer stops, derailing and partially obstructing the adjacent main line. A passenger train, in service with CrossCountry Trains, then struck the derailed locomotive. No-one was injured, but there was extensive damage to both the locomotive and the passenger train.

Could have been killed

The prosecution asserted that the defendant Hubble’s failure to control his train due to distraction caused by using his mobile phone while at the controls of his locomotive led to a serious incident. It added that under slightly different circumstances the incident may have had a catastrophic outcome. Due to the pandemic and the national lockdown in place at the time, the passenger train was almost empty. “Luckily there were only six people on board; the guard, driver and four passengers”, said the presiding Judge Cartwright as he handed down the sentence. “But for the lockdown, the train might otherwise have been carrying a good number of others.”

Inspector in freight yard with back to camera wearing orange Office of Rail and Road overcoat and helmet
The Office of Rail and Road has responsibility for the safety of railway workers and railway users (ORR image)

Judge Cartwright commented on the good fortune of the passenger driver, Alan Jones, who was traumatised but uninjured. “The driver, was immediately covered in glass, his driver’s door torn open”, said the judge. “If the [freight] locomotive had derailed a little further over, this would have been a head-on collision and he would have been killed.”

A clear message about responsibilities

The Office of Rail and Road is the economic and safety regulator of Britain’s railway, which includes light rail, trams and heritage. It is also the health and safety regulator for the industry, helping ensure the safety of both passengers and workers. Speaking for the ORR, who brought the prosecution to court, Ian Prosser, Chief Inspector of Railways, said they were pleased with the outcome of this case. “It sends a clear message to drivers about their responsibilities. This incident could have resulted in serious injuries and fatalities.”

In addition to his jail sentence, the freight driver Hubble must also undertake 120 hours of unpaid work within the next 12 months and pay 600 pounds (714 euro) compensation to CrossCountry train driver Alan Jones, court costs of 2,400 pounds (2856 euro), plus a victim surcharge of 150 pounds (180 euro).

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.