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RAIB: No reliable process for identifying long-term platform movements at NR

Network Rail has been told to “review and improve” its process for managing clearances at platforms as current plans do not always identify the minimum spacing required. 

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) made the recommendation following an accident where trains struck the station platform at Moston, near Manchester, in January this year. 

Although not a factor in the accident, RAIB identified that Network Rail’s processes for managing tight clearances at platforms depend on whether the platform is moving, but there is “no reliable process” for identifying movements, which develop slowly over several years. 

The investigator added that the cause of the movements is “uncertain”, but is probably at least partly due to inadequate drainage to deal with water flowing down the cutting sides which rise up from the back of the platform. 

As part of Network Rail’s review, RAIB said the new process should provide an “effective means” for identifying long-term adverse movement trends and that documentation directly related to managing clearances is more “clearly presented”. 

RTM was recently told by Ian Prosser, the Office of Rail and Road’s chief inspector of Railways, that Network Rail needs to improve the management of its track geometry, which “has been of particular concern to us for a few years now”. 

He said: “They do need to manage their track geometry better. They are getting better but they still can improve. They then need to look after – and we are pressing them on this – the underlying condition that affects track geometry very often, which is drainage condition and embankments themselves. 

“They have been ‘Cinderella’ assets for far too long and we have been enforcing on these for the last four to five years. 

“They are getting better, and they are getting better knowledge of their embankment and drainage. But we had to enforce on their drainage management last year because they had a good plan, centrally, for improving their drainage assets but they were not implementing it consistently across their routes. They started to comply with that notice through this year.” 

Network Rail says it is reviewing risks relating to managing clearances at platforms and the means of controlling these, including the development of a competence system for staff involved in these activities.

During the incident on 28 January, a freight service from Warrington Arpley yard to Doncaster struck platform supports along the edge of the Down platform at Moston. 

This displaced other parts of the platform structure which were then struck by a passenger service from Manchester Victoria to Leeds. There were no injuries but both trains suffered minor damage. 

RAIB stated that the freight train struck the platform structure because spigots intended to secure containers to a wagon, exceeded the “permitted width of the wagon”. 

The investigator has recommended that operators of container wagons, aims to prevent spigots being left in an unsafe position or, if this is not practicable, using paint or alternative means to ensure that incorrectly stowed spigots are easily seen.

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