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Track boundary confusion between NR and LU caused Wimbledon derailment

Confusion over which body should be responsible for a section of track near Wimbledon station contributed to a derailment in November last year which forced 300 people to be evacuated.

Investigators from the RAIB said the problem came because a 24-year-old agreement between Network Rail (NR) and the London Underground (LU) setting out track boundaries was not clear.

The incident saw SWR’s 04.54 service between Basingstoke and London Waterloo derail shortly after leaving Wimbledon station early in the morning.

Travelling around 19mph, the train traversed a link line and the left-hand set of wheels fell from the rail head leaving them in the space between the two rails causing the opposing wheels to leave the track and drag across the ground.

The train continued in this state for more than 185 metres, causing significant track damage.

The track in question connects two other lines maintained separately by LU and NR, but the RAIB said the boundaries of each organisations responsibility were not clearly signed or represented on a diagram drawn up in 1994.

Initial lines of demarcation were agreed between LU and Railtrack, NR’s predecessor, but when investigators cross-examined the two organisation’s diagrams they found a gap, meaning a section of track was not always checked.

However, in the period in which the track was not properly maintained it had deteriorated, with the gauge spread increasing over time and leaving a potentially dangerous situation.

Wimbledon derailment diagram

“The distance between the rails was greater than the permitted maximum,” the RAIB’s report explained. “The condition of the track suggested that it was poorly installed and that it had deteriorated over a period of many years, including an increasing distance between the rails.”

In addition to issues or signage and demarcation, patrollers from both NR and LU were unable to inspect the sections of train in question because of differences in personal track safety certifications between the two companies.

The RAIB report warns both infrastructure owners to deal with the issue, while also counselling other organisations responsible for track to take care with issues surrounding areas of maintenance.

Images: RAIB

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Asctty   07/02/2018 at 15:41

Why would the train be traversing the link line anyway?

STB   07/02/2018 at 16:01

@Asctty It's explained in the RAIB report - link in the article above.

Andrew Gwilt   07/02/2018 at 23:36

But London Overground’s Class 378 that shares track with the London Underground District Line between Richmond and Gunnersbury that has no problem whatsoever. So how comes this train got derailed before it approached the crossover where the District Line 4th Rail and National Rail 3rd Rail meet. The inner live rail is at a different voltage (630v) than the current 750v 3rd Rail on the left & right side of the running track. Or was it due to faulty track caused by point failure that caused the train to derail just outside Wimbledon station.

ICN   08/02/2018 at 04:41

Andrew, what on earth are you talking about. The type of rolling stock and the voltage in the conductor rails had nothing to do with the derailment. It was track spread due to lack of maintenance; read the article. By the way, the conductor rail voltage is measured between the 3rd and 4th rails with the centre (4th) rail being electrically bonded to one of the running rails in areas where both mainline and underground trains operate. N.B, there isn't a different voltage in each of the conductor rails.

Andrew Gwilt   08/02/2018 at 19:45

Yet again I’ve proven wrong.

Boris   08/02/2018 at 23:39

An important part of being an engineer is being able to accept feedback and criticism.

Joel   09/02/2018 at 12:13

Trains traverse that route - one UP in the early morning, one DOWN in the late evening (least disruption to fewest time-sensitive passengers) - for crew familiarisation. Running via East Putney is the emergency route to and from Waterloo if the main line is inaccessible or restricted.

(Dr) Pedr Jarvis   09/02/2018 at 17:44

We had an interesting episode where an independent railway crosses Network Rail on the level. NR did not at first appreciate that they had to maintain the 4ft 8in section of the independent railway between their own metals. Fortunately the rattling drew attention before there were ill effects. All is now well.

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