rail axle bearings.

Implications of climate change as investigation into Stonehaven derailment begins

Driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62, died when the 06:38 Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street train derailed in August last year.

Network Rail who are responsible for the rail infrastructure has commissioned two external reviews by committees headed by independent experts to look into the causes of the tragedy which visually shocked many.

Aerial pictures revealed the breadth and extent of the accident with train coaches derailed and debris scattered across of the landscape.

One is being led interestingly by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), which is looking at the potential implications of climate change in the incident.

They have so far said the train derailed after colliding with stones washed out onto the track from the gravel-filled crest drain and from the adjacent ground caused by "unusually heavy rain".

They said "It is possible that surface water flows, before the day of the accident, had been sufficient to dislodge gravel from small areas of the gravel-filled drain, sufficient to be seen in the area affected, but with insufficient material washed down for this to be apparent at track level. The lack of an effective drainage inspection regime meant that any such indications of future problems upslope of catchpit would not have been detected."

Though various causes and implications unions are not satisfied with the possibility that the derailment could be blamed on climate change or also in this case "unusually heavy rain” and has urged for Network rail to “examine every mile of track for which it is responsible”

The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), who were the train drivers' union. Its organizer Kevin Lindsay said "Blame for the accident has been laid firmly at the door of Network Rail for failing to maintain the area around the track"

"It was the landslip – the debris washed onto the track – which caused the train to derail, with the subsequent loss of life, injuries, and catastrophic consequences”

Six other people were also injured when the train travelling from Aberdeen crashed into a landslip following heavy rain, happening close to Carmont,

Across the UK unfortunately this has been an ongoing trajectory Crossrail for example introduced the ‘Entry into Trial Running Health and Safety Campaign’, in a monthly update to the London Assembly. This follows a series of followed five High Potential Near Misses (HPNM) recorded in February, including a derailment of an engineering train at Plumstead.

Derailments like these pose questions for the rail industry and its responsibilities over its tracks and safety measures by the public and potentially in future from government.

Are they only prepared to act and improve its track and safety systems once there are casualties or are they just not able to be responsible and competent to do so?  

This accident is perhaps strong evidence of that, with RAIB during their investigation revealing that at present there is no evidence that a drainage system built at the location of the Stonehaven rail crash was inspected between its construction in 2012 and the fatal accident in August 2020.

Furthermore they will look at the railway’s use of weather data to help it manage events such as  major winter storms, which the RAIB said "can often be forecast with relatively high certainty". It will further look at the actual behaviour of the drainage system and will include analysis of relevant ground and groundwater data, collection of additional ground and groundwater data and mathematical modelling.

We will be following this ongoing story as more is revealed on the Stonehaven derailment. 

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