Tube passenger, 101, dragged along platform after her coat gets caught in closing train doors

An image from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) of the incident  (Rail Accident Investigation Branch/PA Wire)
An image from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) of the incident (Rail Accident Investigation Branch/PA Wire)

A 101-year-old Tube passenger required hospital treatment for serious injuries suffered when her coat became trapped in train doors that closed as she attempted to get off a Northern line service.

The incident, which happened at Archway station in February last year, was followed two months later by a similar incident at Chalk Farm station, also on the Northern line.

Full details emerged on Thursday when the Rail Accident Investigation Branch issued a report and made four recommendations to London Underground to improve safety.

In the incident at Archway, the elderly passenger suffered “serious injuries” after being dragged for 2m along the platform.

The woman, who has not been named, had to be put on a stretcher to be taken to the ticket hall and was then taken by ambulance to hospital.

The so-called “trap and drag” incidents happened in February 18 and April 20 last year.

The RAIB said the Northern line’s automatic train operating system – which just requires the driver to open and close the doors but which “drives” the train via a computer programme – may have been a factor.

The Archway incident happened around 3.50pm when the elderly passenger was exiting the fifth carriage of the northbound train via a single door.

When the door began to close, her unzipped coat became trapped. She fell to the ground, causing the coat to break free of the door.

Her companion, who was holding on to her at the time, also fell to the ground.

The train travelled 20m before the driver became aware of the situation and slammed on the brakes.

The platforms at Archway (left) and Chalk Farm (right) (London Underground)
The platforms at Archway (left) and Chalk Farm (right) (London Underground)

The report said: “The passenger was still alighting from the train when the door closed on them. They managed to pull themselves free but the coat they were wearing became trapped in the door.

“The passenger and their companion both realised that the coat was trapped and tried to pull it free but were unable to do so. They both believed that the train operator would be able to see them and would open the doors to release the coat.”

The report said the incident happened “because the train’s door control system did not detect the presence of the coat trapped in the door”.

It said: “Although the train operator was aware of the passenger and their companion, they were not aware that the passenger’s coat was trapped before they initiated the train’s departure.

“The train operator was not aware that the pilot light, which indicates that the train’s doors are closed, could still illuminate with something trapped in closed doors.”

The Archway train driver had previously been involved in a safety-related incident in 2021 when a passenger was momentarily caught in the doors while trying to board their train.

In the incident at Chalk Farm station, the passenger was dragged along the platform for 20m before falling to the ground when the coat became free.

The passenger suffered minor injuries and psychological distress. The train driver was unaware what was happening and did not stop.

The Northern line trains are built and maintained for London Underground by Alstom. Both were six-carriage trains from the line’s 1995 stock.

The Chalk Farm incident happened just after 11pm when a passenger was attempting to board the rear carriage of a southbound train.

The passenger stopped as the doors were closing but their coat became trapped in the doors. The train then departed, dragging them along the platform.

The driver “had also experienced a previous platform-train interface (PTI) incident in 2019”, the report said.

It said: “The train travelled for approximately 20m until the coat became free and the passenger fell to the ground.

“The train operator was unaware of the accident and continued the journey. The passenger sustained minor physical injuries to their left elbow and both knees and psychological distress.”

Again, the train’s door control system did not detect the presence of the trapped coat.

The RAIB said the systems for managing the safety of passengers moving between train and platform were “not sufficiently effective at controlling the risks to passengers by getting their clothing trapped in closing doors”.

However, such incidents are rare - occurring about once every four million journeys.

The watchdog made four recommendations and thee “learning points”, including ensuring drivers are aware that the “pilot light” on doors may not alert them to trapped clothing.

London Underground is required to review its understanding of the risk posed in such situations, what can be done to mitigate the risk, consider whether there should be a minimum amount of time for trains to “dwell” in stations and whether the environment in the driver’s cab influences attention and awareness.

London Underground was also castigated for not alerting the RAIB to the incidents, a situation that meant some data was lost.

The RAIB, which only found out in May last year, said the Archway incident should have been flagged immediately as it involved a serious injury. London Underground had only alerted the Office of Rail and Road.

Nick Dent, London Underground’s director of customer operations, said: “The safety of our customers and staff is at the heart of everything we do and we were extremely concerned that two customers were injured at Archway and Chalk Farm last year.

“London Underground is consistently recognised as one of the safest metro systems in the world, carrying millions of customers every year.

“However we are not complacent and we welcome the recommendations from the RAIB’s report and we are in the process of implementing them.”