Cumbria train derailment
Solicitors representing victims of the crash that occurred when a train derailed in Cumbria earlier this year have today expressed concerns over the systemic failures highlighted in a report and the similarities with previous train disasters.
Network Rail have published their investigation into the accident involving a Virgin Pendolino train in Cumbria on 23 February 2007 in which one person died and approximately 30 others were injured.
The report confirms the RAIB's (Rail Accident Investigatory Branch) earlier findings that the immediate cause of the accident was a faulty point.
Network Rail confirmed that loose bolts were found on the Lambrigg 2B points more than six weeks before the crash. Although they do appear to have been replaced the cause of the problem was never investigated and following maintenance work in January 2007 the local manager did not establish that the points were in a safe condition.
The problem was also left unidentified during a visual inspection five days prior to the accident as the person carrying out the inspection forgot to inspect the Lambrigg points.
Trains continued to pass over the points, causing bolts to become dislodged again and the stretcher bars between the tracks came under pressure. One stretcher bar was dislodged prior to the accident and another was fractured. As the complete stretcher bar system was not in place at the point, the left hand switch rail was free to move whist the other remained fixed in the correct position.
This resulted in a narrowing of the track at the point where the train was moving forward. As the train could not accommodate the narrowing track the train was forced to derail.
Network Rail's report also looked at the underlying causes of the accident and found systemic failures in track patrolling and management.
Visual inspections and patrols of the lines were carried out with poor management and verification. The investigation found that the local manager carrying out the inspection five days before the accident forgot to inspect the full length of the line scheduled for inspection. This was not picked up when his inspection was countersigned and was not raised in a following review meeting.
Adequate inspection of the points would have detected evidence of deterioration and remedial work would have been carried out. This would have prevented the accident.
As a result of the report's findings Network Rail have made a number of recommendations. For instance consideration will be given to implementing a patrolling procedure which specifies minimum requirements such as indicating where to start and finish the inspection, the marking of defects on site and consideration of using standardised documents.
They will also review the effectiveness of management of the track patrolling and that their managers will receive safety management training and consider whether further training relating to point systems is required.
John Pickering, a partner at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors commented: Whilst it is refreshing that Network Rail has recognised the deficiencies in their system and is addressing them, it is a great concern that the system in place to ensure the railway is safe collapsed because of one man.
This highlights the inadequacies in the system and puts a serious question mark over the way in which these checks are carried out, not only on this occasion but in other tragedies such as the Hatfield disaster.
At a time when we aspire to run high speed passenger services across the country, and in the wake of the new speed record of the Eurostar, it is paramount that the public is confident in the maintenance of the infrastructure of the railway.
I wait with interest for the RAIB's full report.