Rail freight

17.04.15

RAIB investigating another incident of a container falling from a train

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has announced it is investigating the second incident of a container being blown off a freight train in a month.

The organisation is already looking into an incident on 7 March in Cumbria where high winds blew a 30-foot container off a freight train travelling at 75mph down the mainline. Now RAIB is looking into a second occurrence which happened on 31 March near Deeping St Nicholas, where a 40-foot container was blown off a train travelling at 38mph.

The RAIB report says that the 31 March incident occurred at around 15:22, when the empty container was blown from a FEA(S) wagon that formed part of the 11:21 GB Railfreight service from Felixstowe South to Doncaster Railport.

The train was travelling at approximately 38mph on the Down Spalding line when the container fell. It became caught up with the train and was dragged a short distance before coming to rest on the adjacent track.

The automatic brake brought the train to a stop after travelling a further 250 metres. The brake was applied when the container struck the handbrake handwheels of several wagons and damaged a safety mechanism.

RAIB say that the incident took place at a time of high cross winds and that “significant damage” was caused to the infrastructure, including a trackside telecommunications cabinet, sleepers and rail fixings and axle counter heads.

The wagon was fitted with UIC spigots on which the container was mounted. However, RAIB’s investigation of previous similar incidents at Hardendale and Cheddington in 2008 found that inwardly hinging spigots, of the same type as those on FEA(S) wagons, do not meet the standards required and are unable to resist the overturning forces experienced in strong winds.

Following RAIB’s report on the 2008 incident, GB Railfreight addressed the risk of containers blowing off in strong winds procedurally by imposing a maximum speed of 60mph for trains carrying empty containers on FEA(S) wagons when wind speeds of between 56mph and 65mph are forecast, or by removing empty containers altogether when wind speeds of more than 65mph are expected.

At the time of the incident a 60mph speed limit had been instituted on the journey due to a forecast of 60mph wind gusts. However, RAIB say that data from a wind farm close to the accident site indicates that there were higher localised gusts in the 10-minute interval during which the incident occurred.

Following the Cumbria incident earlier in March an Urgent Safety Advice to the rail industry was issued. Now a second incident has occurred Network Rail has issued an instruction to freight operating companies requiring empty containers carried on wagons with non-compliant UIC spigots to be mechanically locked to the wagon or removed from the train, pending the conclusion of investigations into both accidents.

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