Latest Rail News

25.09.15

NR told to review asset management strategy after signal post collision

Network Rail has been told to review its asset management strategy to improve the examination and maintenance of its ancillary structures following a collision between a train and a collapsed signal post at Newbury last November. 

On 17 November 2014, a HST travelling at 110mph hit a set of junction indicators attached to the top of a signal that had collapsed and fallen across the railway between Newbury and Newbury Racecourse stations. 

damage

The signal had fallen across the Down Westbury line, but its junction indicators were lying foul on the Up Westbury line, on which the train was travelling. 

Although there were no injuries and the train did not derail, its outside was damaged. However, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said the “outcome could have been much more serious” if the first train to strike the fallen signal had been travelling at speed on the Down Westbury line. 

Google Earth

The signal collapsed because the base of the post, made of hollow tubular steel, had corroded through, causing an almost complete loss of wall thickness at and just above ground level. 

RAIB stated that signal posts are checked visually every year, but no-one saw the problems with this signal because the main area of corrosion was hidden by ballast, and the examinations regime was “vulnerable to missing such defects”. 

Corrosion

The investigators said that Network Rail’s asset management review should identify structures at the greatest risk of failure, and take steps to mitigate the risk and special measures to deal with planted posts. 

Additionally, Network Rail has been told to develop and implement a risk assessment process to determine when it is necessary for the critical elements of ancillary structures to be exposed for the purposes of examination. 

On top of this, there has been a call for the infrastructure owner to develop a specification for a new signal post, or a modification to existing posts, that eliminates or mitigates the risk of internal corrosion. 

Structures examinations on the Western route are carried out by Amey plc on behalf of Network Rail’s structures team under its Civil Engineering Framework Agreement (CEFA). RAIB has recommended that Amey should immediately review and revise its competence management processes for its staff involved in structures examinations.

A Network Rail spokesman told RTM: “The safety of our network is of the utmost importance to us and we will take any steps necessary to prevent a recurrence of this incident.   

“We will be studying the recommendations of the report in detail.” 

RTM asked Amey for a comment on the report’s recommendations, but at the time of publication had received no reply.

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