Railway safety and crime

15.03.19

Safety warning issued after runaway road-rail vehicle raises concerns over brake maintenance and ‘inadequate supervision’

The RAIB has issued new safety recommendations after a road rail vehicle (RRV) ran downhill and out of control along a track for 340 metres.

During works at Bradford Interchange station, a mobile elevating working platform ran away whilst it was being placed on the track because its rail wheels were “incorrectly” partially deployed and because the rail wheel braking system had not been correctly maintained.

The vehicle’s machine operator and machine controller were able to run alongside it as it fell away, and managed to warn a member of track maintenance staff who dodged the RRV.

The RAIB’s report said the partial deployment of the wheels was a result of the machine operator failing to follow the standard industry procedure for on and off tracking.

The fitters had also not followed the equipment manufacturer’s instructions, meaning the rail wheel braking system had not been properly maintained and the employer, Readypower, failed to detect both of these issues.

The RAIB reported that an underlying factor was that the industry’s competence management system for machine operators focuses on renewing qualifications instead of demonstrating ongoing competence.

In its recommendations, the RAIB said that Readypower needed to improve the management of competence of its staff.

It said that the quality of the maintenance instructions and training provider to the employer’s fitters needed to improve.

The final recommendation was that the industry’s competence management system for all machine operators who work on Network Rail’s infrastructure needed to improve.

The chief inspector of rail accidents, Simon French, commented: “Getting road-rail plant safely on and off the track ought to be a straightforward business. Unfortunately, over the years RAIB has had to investigate too many incidents in which this operation has gone wrong, and the machine involved has run away downhill, often for quite long distances.

“Too often the people in charge have not known what to do to stop the runaway. In this case, the machine operator’s actions were not in line with what he had been trained to do, and no-one had checked on him.

“Of greater concern, however, is that the machine’s brakes did not hold it stationary on the one in 46 gradient. This was because they were badly maintained, a state of affairs that can be traced back to poor instructions and inadequate supervision of the plant hire company’s maintenance staff.

“The project to convert many road-rail vehicles to direct rail wheel braking also lacked important elements of safety assurance, such as provision for proper information about the machines being converted, and adequate arrangements for training the people who would have to maintain the new braking systems.”

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