LONDON — Not one death in 10 years.
Yes, you read that correctly. Not one passenger has died while riding a train in the United Kingdom's nearly 10,000-mile rail network in 10 years.
The last fatality was Feb. 23, 2007 — when one person died in a Virgin West Coast train derailment caused by an open switch. By contrast, more than 18,000 people have died on Britain’s roads in the same time period. Figures do not include deaths of trespassers and suicides.
The rail industry’s Safety Risk Model shows that, since 2000, the fatality risk to passengers from train accidents has fallen from an estimated 2.45 fatalities per 10 billion passenger kilometers to 0.33 fatalities per 10 billion passenger kilometers today.
According to the U.K. rail industry's Rail Safety and Standards Board, such a long period of safe operation is unprecedented. The U.K. board has also looked at incidents, which have most potential to turn into more serious accidents including trains striking objects and derailments, and these too are falling, with just 17 incidents in 2016 compared to 45 in 2007.
Detailed analysis by the U.K. board shows that rail passengers genuinely are safer, with train accident fatality risk falling 87 percent since the year 2000, as both accidents and their causes, such as trains passing red signals, are at an all-time low.
“This unprecedented 10-year respite does not, of course, mean that train accidents are consigned to history. It is still possible for accidents involving trains, or vehicles like trains, to happen, as shown elsewhere," says the U.K. board's Director of System Safety George Bearfield. "We have seen major accidents overseas in recent months, and also the major tram incident in [London] in November last year. The railway’s safety performance is maintained through continual learning and industry is ready to learn any relevant transferable lessons for the mainline railway in Britain.
The accident at Grayrigg, Cumbria, England, in 2007 was the last time a passenger died in a train accident scenario such as a derailment or collision. One passenger, an 84-year old woman, was killed when a Virgin Rail Pendolino London-Glasgow service was derailed by a faulty switch on the West Coast main line.