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High winds ‘blew freight container off train’ in Cumbria

High winds blew a 30-foot container off a freight train travelling at 75mph on the down mainline in the vicinity of Scout Green, Cumbria, earlier this month, investigators have said.

 The empty container, blown off an FEA(B) wagon that formed part of train 4S83 (the 23:54 hrs service from Basford Hall to Coatbridge), passed over the adjacent up main line and came to rest at the bottom of the up side embankment after knocking over trees and a boundary wall. 

Although the incident did not result in injuries, the potential for more serious “consequences is evident,” stated the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), which is now carrying out an independent inquiry into the event that occurred on 7 March. 

The RAIB added that preliminary investigations suggested the inward hinging spigots fitted to the FEA(B) wagon involved in this incident did not comply with the dimensional tolerances specified in standard UIC 571-4. 

It was added that the freight train operator was aware of this and was aiming to control the risk of containers being blown off. 

For instance, if winds of over 55mph were forecast, any empty containers should have been pinned down or the maximum train speed reduced to 60mph. 

The forecast wind-speeds for Cumbria at the time were less than 55mph, which meant there was no procedural requirement to limit the train’s speed or pin down empty containers. However, local measurements at Shap weather-station, suggest that the actual local wind-speed was around 62mph . 

Since the incident, the freight operator has reduced the 55mph wind-speed threshold to 41mph and issued a National Incident Report (NIR) to inform the rest of the railway industry. RAIB has also issued Urgent Safety Advice. 

RAIB’s investigation will now consider the sequence of events and factors that led to the incident, including actions taken in response to similar incidents at Hardendale and Cheddington in 2008.

(Image: c. Network Rail) 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Baz Hall   28/03/2015 at 10:02

This is not the first time a container has come off a train due to high winds. Surely the twist locks should have kept the container in place. And this would have never happened. Would be very interested in knowing who operated the train and whose FEA wagon it was. Strangely not mentioned in the article. Also who manufactured the wagon and safety accepted it into service on NR?. More interestingly and again not mentioned, have all FEA wagons been grounded pending a check on the "inward hinging spigots" to see if they meet the required dimensional tolerances? Reducing speeds are all well and good, but if the wagon infrastructure is wrong then this is just unacceptable. It would be like operating a container ship with a small and known hole in hull. In strong winds or high seas, the captain would just take it a bit easier.

Tony Williams   31/03/2015 at 21:28

What makes this incident more serious, is the fact it appears that the incident happened on the seventh of march. And a friend of mine told me that a colleague of his, who spotted it from the road, reported it something like ten days later in the middle of march, and I believe nobody at that point even knew it was missing. Going by the earliest date on the media report 23rd march. This seems to bare that out ? If this is incorrect, what date was it found ?

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