London Underground and contractors fined £300,000 over runaway train at Highgate station

A runaway train which sped out-of-control from Highgate Tube station into central London on Friday the 13th has cost London Underground and its contractors a fine of £300,000.

Control staff watched helplessly as the 39 tonne maintenance wagon hurtled for 16 minutes through seven stations on the Northern Line before it could be stopped in August 2010, the Old Bailey heard.

Speeds of 30mph were reached as the wagon raced after a passenger train, which was told to rush out of the next station at Archway and keep going.

Passengers on board the train were told to run to the front, as the flashing lights of both vehicles turned into one as the grinder got within 600 metres of the fleeing train.

It finally stopped at Warren Street, where it reached an upward incline.

London Underground, Tube Lines Ltd and Schweerbau GMBH pleaded guilty to endangering passengers and staff under Health and Safety law.

They were each fined £100,000 today.

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Tube Lines and London Underground are part of Transport for London, while the German company Schweerbau GMBH manufactured the wagon and its tow-bar.

Jonathan Ashley-Norman, prosecuting for the Office of Rail Regulation, told the court that the rail grinding unit was being towed when it broke away during the early morning.

It then started rolling downhill without brakes from Highgate.

Attempts were made to slow the runaway train down using points at Camden Town and Mornington Crescent, and the trains were diverted onto different lines.

“In the event - and fortunately - no one was harmed,” said Mr Ashley-Norman.

Judge Richard Hone said: “There was the potential of terrible tragedy.”

He added: “To those involved it must have seemed an extremely frightening eternity.”

The court was told that a fault had now been remedied and the incident was extremely unlikely to occur again.