Freight services have resumed on the Llangennech railway after what has been described by Network rail as “one of the biggest environmental recovery operations” after a derailment of 25 wagons on the southern end of the Heart of Wales six months ago.
The wagons burst into flames and spilled thousands of litters contaminating 30,000 tons of soil, causing a major environmental concern for the area. There were no casualties or any injuries but locals and farmers were made aware of the incident.
We spoke to Programme Director of Network Rail Dave Stanbury , who said: “From the local community the response has been exceptional. Luckily there are not too many houses near the site so we did letter drops to all the local neighbors, as we had 50 lorry movements a day, with soil going out for treatment and clean stone coming in”
Using interceptors and various complex formation designs, Network Rail were able to contain the site and prevent the potential leaking and spread of acids into local land.
Environmental specialists DB Cargo carried out the work to determine the scale of the contamination and with consultation of collaboration of NWR (Natural Resources Wales) it was decided to reinstate the entire site. Forcing a full evacuation of 165yds at a depth of 6ft 6in (2m) and width of 22yds (20m) of land the equivalent of 12,000 cubic meters.
During the reinstatement of the land, they used geogrid and geotextiles to get back the land to its former strength and stability. However, with the site experiencing numerous storms and floods, the attempts to stabilize the land were not a stable process.
There were further major questions in regards to the environmental damage and what the incident meant for the local ecosystem. Network rail say “the monitoring will go on from possibly from two to five years” in regards to how the area will recover.
Given the scale and unique nature of the incident, there was always going to be a conversation in regards to the financial ramifications. Speaking to Stanbury, he added: “The entire recovery and reinstatement project is around the £5m mark with the monitoring and testing adding further costs”
When asked about the potential causes of the incident, he explained “you'll probably find that there are issues, that have caused track defects because of poor maintenance on wagons”, while adding that the incident was not a pattern but “sporadic throughout the country”.
The freight line served various local communities providing extra hauling power, providing capacity for petrol-chemicals and steel.
The incident is said to have taken 37,500 hours of work to protect the environment and repair the line. However, there has been full recognition that there have been major progressive steps made in the process of recovery from a rail, economic and environmental perspective. Which as a result have allowed services to resume.