British Rail’s Train Safety Experiment

Jan 1993: In order to find out how close workers could safely stand by the tracks while the new high-speed trains were going by, British Rail announced it would conduct an unusual experiment. It would tether employees to wooden posts located around six feet from the tracks and then measure the force of the slipstream on them as the trains went by at 140 mph.

Although members of the public weren't invited to participate in the experiment, about 50 of them volunteered to be guinea pigs anyway.

Sunday London Telegraph - Jan 31, 1993

It was difficult to find out the results of the experiment, but after some digging I located a postscript printed in the Magazine of the Pennine Railway Society. The test never took place. Faced with widespread criticism, British Rail's Health and Safety Executive cancelled it.

Loco Notion
Barmy BR proposed to tether workers to trackside posts as high-speed trains thundered past at 140mph. Bosses wanted human guinea pigs to stand as close as 6ft 6in to the expresses to test the effect of their slipstream. Rail
union chief Jimmy Knapp branded the idea barmy and suggested BR use Transport Secretary John MacGregor instead.
The workers would have been attached to posts by special harnesses that would allow them to move to the side but not forward. They would have been asked for their reaction after the trains had roared past. The tests would have helped to determine the distances from trains at which staff could work in safety. They would have taken place between York and Darlington.
However the Health and Safety Executive banned the scheme. The tests have been postponed pending further discussions to see how BR could get the information another way.
One disgruntled railwayman described the scheme as harebrained and said he joined BR to drive a flipping engine, not to play flipping bondage games. However a number of civilians have volunteered to take part in the scheme, preferably dressed in leather and chained from head to toe.
The effect when someone stands in the slipstream of a high-speed train is likely to be they'd get sucked under it. If tied to a post perhaps it would suck their boots off, or maybe they'd go blue in the face.
The idea is on a par to that of abolishing the timetable to stop the trains running late.
     Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 03, 2023
     Category: Experiments | Trains and Other Vehicles on Rails | Transportation | 1990s

Piece of cake, by comparison. I was lashed to the mast when we successfully sailed past the land of the Sirens.
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 07/03/23 at 07:08 AM
@Virtual: trust me, mate - any siren is an improvement on Edwina Currie. Unless you're John Major, in which case, I'm very sorry.
Posted by Richard Bos on 07/08/23 at 09:35 AM
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