Home > Uncategorized > The ONLY Previous Lightning Damaged Train Signaling System, UK August 2006

The ONLY Previous Lightning Damaged Train Signaling System, UK August 2006

Here is one incident in York, UK that’s actually very similar to the HSR collision in China, the lightning also knocked out the signaling system in the train station, but fortunately, no collisions.

HH has the scoop on this.


A LIGHTNING strike caused chaos at York Station today leading to long delays for thousands of passengers across the area.

Commuters reported hearing a bang just before 7am which caused the roof to shake after it was hit in the area of the station near platform 11.

One passenger Reuben Hartley, 34, said: “At first, everyone thought a bomb had gone off.

“It was just a huge bang and we were all looking around wondering what had happened.

“Staff didn’t tell us anything for at least ten minutes because I think nobody knew what had happened.

“Then all the boards started flashing up delayed’ and people were just walking around confused until they told us what was going on.”

An announcement was made over the station’s tannoy system saying: “We apologise for the delays and this is due to a lightening strike.”

Thousands of passengers were affected throughout the morning as many trains were cancelled and scores of others faced long delays.

Special bus services had to be called up at the last minute to ferry passengers to Leeds and Manchester and also to South Yorkshire.

One rail worker, who did not want to be named, revealed a strike at the station had affected all the signalling leading to problems on all trains trying to get of York.

He said the delays would continue throughout the morning until at least 11.30am as staff tried to catch up.

A GNER spokesman said it was likely that more than 1,000 of its passengers had been affected.

This lightning strike has affected signalling around York. That has meant we have been unable to operate trains south of York,” he said.

“We have laid on coaches between Doncaster and York and we are still affected by that.”

The spokesman said it was believed the lightning strike hit the west side of the rail station, somewhere in the area around Platform 11.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “At 6.55am there was a lightning strike in York. It knocked out 12 of the signalling modules and we couldn’t move trains through York. We have been working hard to rectify the situation to move trains through York. After about 9am, everything was moving close to timetable, but there are still delays and knock-on effects.”

A Virgin Rail spokesman said it had been unable to run any services north of Leeds or south of Newcastle until 9.20am this morning.

But, despite the significant disruption to the company’s Cross Country services, the firm did not have to put on replacement coaches for passengers.

“It is difficult to say how many passengers are affected but it is causing major disruption,” he said. “We have been in the hands of Network Rail and have just had to wait.

“The line was reopened at about 9.20am, but there are still delays for our services.”

Northern Rail, which runs some services in North Yorkshire including York to Selby, said it had also been affected by the signalling short-out, but said all its trains were running as normal by 10am.


Now, lightning on train signal systems is not very common, but UK 2006 showed that it does happen nowadays.

AND the UK incident showed that perhaps UK’s train signaling systems are just as susceptible to lightning strikes as Chinese HSR signaling systems.  (Then again, WHO is invulnerable to lightning?  Superman?)

(and I don’t think the previous Chinese HSR train stoppages were due to lightning knocking out the signal systems at the train stations.)

On that evidence, I’m not so sure now that there was some “design flaw” in the signaling systems.  The human error factor seems to be more likely now.


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  1. Charles Liu
    July 29th, 2011 at 13:12 | #1

    Roland’s photo of the carts proves the press conference claim that only the locomotive were placed in a ditch.

    There was another rumor on the microblogs, that casualty list was not forth comming and it had somthing to do with authority forcing people to sign settlement. For example D301’s operator is obviousely dead, but his name was not published until the 2nd round.

    Turned out the truth was much more reasonable. The casualty list was based on positive identity, and the remains not easily identified were subject to DNA testing which took time.

  2. July 29th, 2011 at 14:52 | #2

    Even Custer/ChinaGeeks is starting to doubt some of the theories on his own forums.

    Frankly, some of them were blatantly ridiculous.

  3. July 29th, 2011 at 15:41 | #3

    Looks a lot like a soft porn version of a FLG web site.

  4. July 29th, 2011 at 15:55 | #4

    The point of this article is of course to debunk false rumors that lightning couldn’t possibly create problems big enough to stop trains.

    The ultimate goal should be a design that tolerated lightnings.

  5. pug_ster
    July 29th, 2011 at 20:15 | #5

    The point is that there shouldn’t be a collision despite of a signal malfunction. Many newer subway systems have redundant systems. Older ones the operators would know when the signal systems malfunctions and would probably operate at a slower pace. I think problems like this is not a single point of failure, but failures, error and neglect that cause this problem.

  6. Charles Liu
    July 29th, 2011 at 23:14 | #6

    Agree. Perhaps if lightening shuts down essential system the trains should stop like the examples. But then there’ll probably be a riot at the train station.

    Switching to manual monitoring probably would’ve been okay, had the lights worked like they’re supposed to, or if the staff were better trained to use all the system available (one report said the trains were equiped with R-GSM was not used to communicate.)

    All this is hindsight stuff, anyways.

  7. none
    July 30th, 2011 at 00:07 | #7

    “The ultimate goal should be a design that tolerated lightnings.”

    No need to design one, there already is one. You just have to buy/install lightning-rods instead of cutting corners.

  8. July 30th, 2011 at 01:48 | #8

    (and I don’t think the previous Chinese HSR train stoppages were due to lightning knocking out the signal systems at the train stations.)

    Was this train stoppage caused by that? That was the cause — or part of the cause — of the accident. But was that the reason the first train stopped to begin with? The reports I’ve seen so far are all very vague on this, although I haven’t had time to look closely in the past 48 hours or so so perhaps there is clearer information on this now.

    Anyway, speaking of signaling system problems, did you all hear about the subway in Shanghai going backwards? Luckily in that case no one was hurt.

  9. July 30th, 2011 at 09:55 | #9

    This simply shows that the signaling system in China was apparently not more susceptible to lightning than the UK system in 2006.

    In the UK incident, they were simply LUCKY that no train got affected before they caught the signaling problem.

    Lightning hitting trains and causing them to stop is more often. (But really, stoppage didn’t make much difference, the broken signaling system could have easily caused 2 trains to collide head-to-head).

    *For example, Japan in 1991 had a serious train collision due to signaling system fault, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shigaraki_train_disaster

    In that case, 2 rail companies in Japan rewired the signaling system without authorization.

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