Kirkby train crash driver convicted after using Whatsapp 26 seconds before collision at three times speed limit

9th February 2022

A train driver who was using WhatsApp less than thirty seconds before he crashed his train at nearly three times the speed limit has been convicted, following a British Transport Police investigation.

Phillip Hollis, 56, and of Spellow Lane, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of passengers at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on 8 February. He will be sentenced at a later date.

On Saturday 13 March 2021, Hollis was driving a Merseyrail Service from Liverpool Central to Kirkby, which was due to arrive at 6.52pm.

The Network Rail speed limit for the approach to Kirkby station is 15mph, but the train travelled in at 40mph. Hollis applied the emergency brakes but the train has collided with the buffer stop at the end of the platform. This caused the train to derail, and an estimated £450,000 in damage to the station.

There were twelve passengers and a guard on board the service at the time. Thankfully they only sustained minor injuries.

Hollis told police that his bag had fallen off a cupboard in the cab and he’d stood up to retrieve it along with a bottle of Lucozade, before sitting back down and seeing the buffers approaching.

However, when Hollis’s phone was seized and analysed, detectives found he’d sent a WhatsApp message at 6.51.34pm, 26 seconds before the crash. He was interviewed again by detectives and admitted his phone should have been turned off in the cab.

Hollis was dismissed by Merseyrail in September 2021.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve May 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.”