Merseyrail train driver ploughed into platform seconds after sending WhatsApp message

Twelve passengers and the guard onboard the service sustained minor injuries.

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A Merseyrail train driver ploughed into a platform at nearly three times the speed limit moments after sending messages on his phone.

Phillip Hollis, 56, was using his WhatsApp less than 30 seconds before he crashed into Kirkby station, derailing the passenger train.

Twelve passengers and the guard onboard the service from Liverpool Central sustained only minor injuries, but the crash caused £400,000 worth of damage.

Kirkby Station in Knowsley. Image: GoogleKirkby Station in Knowsley. Image: Google
Kirkby Station in Knowsley. Image: Google

How the crash happened

Hollis was well over Network Rail’s 15 mph speed limit when he thundered into the Knowsley station at 40 mph.

Realising what was about to happen, Hollis slammed on the emergency brakes, but it was too late, the train collided with the buffer stop.

He later told police he was trying to retrieve his bag and a bottle of Lucozade which had fallen off a cupboard in the cab, before sitting back down and seeing the buffer at the last minute.

But detectives discovered he sent a WhatsApp message at 6.51.34pm, just 26 seconds before the accident which occurred on 13 March 2021.

He was dismissed by Merseyrail in September 2021 after admitting his phone should have been turned off in the cab.

What’s been said

Detective Chief Inspector Steve May, of British Transport Police, said: “This was a complex investigation but we could be confident from our analysis that Hollis was using his phone in the seconds before crashing the train into Kirby station at high speed.

“I have no doubt this will have caused him to become distracted while driving, endangering the safety of the passengers and staff on board.

“It was only through sheer luck that they weren’t seriously injured or worse, killed, as a result of this incredibly dangerous incident.”

Court date for driver

Hollis, of Walton, Liverpool, who pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of passengers at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, February 8, is due to be sentenced at a later date.

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