Railway safety and crime

13.08.20

Network Rail promises direct action following Stonehaven derailment

Chief Executive of Network Rail, Andrew Haines, has pledged to get to the bottom of the cause and put immediate additional safety measures in place following yesterday’s derailment near Stonehaven in which three people sadly died and six were injured.

Mr. Haines has illustrated the following to be their immediate new measures:

  • As an instantaneous precaution, dozens of sites nationwide with higher-risk trackside slopes, similar to Stonehaven, will be reviewed.
  • These will be carried out by both in-house engineers and specialist contractors and will be supplemented by helicopter surveys.
  • In the light of the current extreme weather conditions we have mobilised our extreme weather action teams. They already monitor the network and will incorporate immediate learning into their plans as soon as it becomes available.
  • Additionally, we are in dialogue with meteorologists to understand how we can strengthen real time information for flash flooding caused by unpredictable extreme weather to inform our train operations, in cooperation with our industry partners.
  • Our engineers are reviewing our existing programme for remote monitoring of high-risk sites to test whether this can go faster or further.

On arrival at the site, Mr. Haines said: “My heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy, especially the families and friends of the three people who died and those that are injured. I want to express my thanks to my colleagues at Network Rail, ScotRail, the British Transport Police and all the emergency services who responded so quickly and professionally and continue to do so.

“Questions are inevitably being asked as to how this could happen and I am determined that we understand the circumstances that led to this devastating event. It’s too early to draw conclusions but it is critical that we investigate thoroughly and with care, and work closely with rail safety authorities, to make sure this can’t happen again.”

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, was also present at the site visit. Mr. Haines and Mr. Shapps both took part in a helicopter survey of the accident.  

Following the incident, there has been theories that torrential rainfall and flooding was the cause of the accident, with the government asking Network Rail to review its resilience to, and management of, extreme weather.

Mr. Haines responded to these speculations by stating that while the cause is not yet known, precautionary measures were being immediately implemented.

He concluded his visit by saying: “Our climate is changing and it is increasingly challenging the performance and reliability of the railway, but incidents like yesterday’s devastating accident are incredibly rare, and our railway remains the safest major railway in Europe.

“Our network was designed for a temperate climate, and it’s challenged when we get extremes such as storms and floods. We’re seeing this more and more and although we can address them on the ground with precautionary measures, we are acutely aware we need a long-term resolution, and we had already secured additional funding and resources to help achieve this.

“Yesterday was a tragedy, a truly horrific event, and my thoughts remain with everyone affected. Understanding what happened is the key to making sure it never occurs again.”

An Office of Rail and Road spokesperson also commented: “Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of those who lost their lives and those impacted by yesterday’s tragic incident.

“Britain’s railways have an excellent safety record and incidents like yesterday are thankfully rare. There are increasing risks from extreme weather which are well known in the industry and our recent annual health and safety report showed that there have been six times more flooding events and a trebling of earthworks failures on Britain’s railways in the last year.

“We look forward to receiving the outcome of the reviews, in addition to plans from Network Rail responding to the requirement we set out last month for improvements to the monitoring of assets and more sophisticated responses to forecast adverse weather.”

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