Latest Rail News

07.11.14

Rail workers narrowly avoid injury as iron-man breaks free

Rail workers narrowly escaped injury when a runaway ‘iron man’ transporter ran free for six miles along a south Wales line.

The incident took place overnight between Saturday 1 November and Sunday 2 November between Pantyffynnon Junction and Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen.

According to the incident report, two workers were transporting a 52-foot section of rail using two sets of ‘Iron Man’ trolleys to a Network Rail maintenance worksite. The trolleys began to run away as the track began to go downhill (1:40 gradient) on the single line, towards Pantyffynnon. The two workers with the trolleys applied the brakes but this failed to stop them, so they jumped onto the trolleys before they built up enough speed to keep up with. This let the workers continue their efforts to stop them and warn other workers who may have been in the path.

After being unable to stop the trolleys the two workers jumped clear, with one hurting his head after falling onto the ballast.

In response to the incident, the RMT union issued a statement demanding a review of the use of ‘iron-man’ transporters on the railway.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Sunday’s incident has sent shock waves through the railways. RMT members are demanding immediate action from Network Rail and its contractors to make sure that there is no repeat. It is pure luck that no one was killed or injured and we are not prepared to leave the safety of our members to luck.

“The Iron Man is a cheap option for transportation of track and clearly there are now serious questions about their safety and particularly the safety of their brakes. There should be an immediate review into their continued use, we will not tolerate the use of faulty equipment.

“Ten years after the Tebay disaster, where four RMT members lost their lives, we are still awaiting the full roll-out of the warning device that we have been promised for years. It’s all very well talking big about track worker safety but what RMT is demanding is delivery of that safety regime without any further delays.”

The union also claim that as a result of their pressure Network Rail have confirmed to them that a process in Wales has been put in place that ensures all iron-men get checked and approved before use and they are also banning it’s use on gradients over 1:150 unless specifically authorised. RMT added that this protocol is only being applied in Wales and that they were demanding that it be applied nationally.

When asked for comment on the incident and the new safeguard claims from RMT, a Network Rail spokesperson said: “We can confirm there was an incident involving an iron-man rail transporter on the evening of Saturday 1 November 2014 at Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, near Neath. We are conducting a formal investigation and are also assisting the Rail Accident Investigation Branch with their investigation into this incident.

“The safety of our workforce is paramount. Following this incident, we will be issuing national interim guidance, pending the outcome of our investigation."

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