Tube driver overran platform by 50m after falling asleep at controls on Metropolitan line

A London Underground driver fell asleep in the driver’s cab on the Metropolitan Line [file photo]  (AFP via Getty Images)
A London Underground driver fell asleep in the driver’s cab on the Metropolitan Line [file photo] (AFP via Getty Images)

A London Underground driver fell asleep in the driver’s cab on the Metropolitan Line, resulting in the Tube over-running the platform by 50 metres, the Standard can reveal.

The driver fell asleep between Ruislip and Ickenham, failing to initiate the brakes in time to bring the Tube to a stop. This resulted in the train overrunning the platform at Ickenham station and going through a red signal without permission.

Transport for London said there were no injuries caused by the incident and the driver was taken off duty while they continued an investigation.

The incident, which occurred about 12.40am on March 12 last year, came to light through a Freedom of Information request and comes as unions raise concerns over a “punishing” shift system that disrupts drivers’ sleep patterns.

Seven London Tube drivers felt so tired at work last year that they filed reports with a specialist safety team within TfL, with some describing how drivers are “feeling overwhelming exhaustion” and even “starting to fall asleep” at work.

The reports are completed by Tube operators and sent to the Safety, Health, and Environment Fatigue Team within TfL. One driver reported not sleeping for two nights before working a shift on the Circle & Hammersmith line.

Another reported feeling exhausted at the beginning of their shift, with their shifts then “managed” and it was agreed that they would improve their hydration and nutrition.

Aslef, the main Tube drivers’ union, claim that Tube bosses are now trying to reduce their members’ breaks. TfL have denied this claim, saying that drivers are entitled to a 30 minute meal break as part of their shift and “there are no plans to change this”.

In total, nearly 30 fatigue reports were filed across all London Underground staff since an online reporting system was launched in September 2021.

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s full-time organiser on London Underground, says his union has “pushed for years to get Underground management to take the issue of driver fatigue seriously”.

“Drivers work a punishing shift system that often means getting up at 3.30am, or earlier, to travel to work one week and not finishing until after 01.30am the next.

“Our health and safety reps have worked hard to get management to recognise the extent of the problem and make changes to policies.

“Shift workers can often be prevented from sleeping when off duty by things outside their control such as building work or noise in the neighbourhood.

“But now management wants to reduce our drivers’ breaks even further under the guise of ‘improving productivity’. ASLEF will always put the safety of Underground passengers and Tube train drivers, our members, first.”

RMT say that these reports of fatigue are “incredibly concerning” and they will resist any attempts by employers “to change rostering schedules”.

In a statement provided to the Standard, Lilli Matson, Chief Safety, Health and Environment Officer at TfL said: “Safety remains our top priority and we continually strive to ensure that our customers are safe when travelling on our network.

“We have adopted a pan-TfL approach to managing fatigue that brings together the experience of our bus, tram, rail and London Underground teams in a unified approach to better understanding and managing fatigue.

“We actively encourage our colleagues to tell us about incidents of fatigue so we can work to address them.

“These reports show our colleagues are aware of the risks and feel they will be supported if they report it. It also helps us improve our work to manage fatigue.”