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Margam fatality report highlights lack of lookouts

AN interim report into the deaths of two track workers at Margam in south Wales on 3 July has concluded that the work team of three, which was part of a larger group of six staff, was not being protected by lookouts.

The third member of the work team, which was maintaining a set of points, came ‘very close to being struck’, said the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.

The driver of an approaching intercity train from Swansea made an emergency brake application about nine seconds before the accident, but the train was still travelling at about 50 mph (80 km/h) when it struck and killed the two track workers.

The RAIB said its preliminary conclusion was that the accident occurred because the three were working on a line that was open to traffic, without the presence of formally appointed lookouts. All three were ‘almost certainly’ wearing ear defenders, because one of them was using a noisy power tool.

All three were concentrating on the task and did not realise that a train was approaching at speed until it was too late.

The RAIB said that the absence of a lookout with no involvement in the work had ’removed a vital safety barrier’.

The documentation associated with the work has also been closely examined, and it indicates that the job should have started at 12.30 to coincide with a possession which had been arranged on the up main line, but in reality the workers involved were on the line much earlier, so that the accident occurred at around 09.52.

However, said the RAIB, evidence from witnesses ‘suggests that there was a widespread belief at the local maintenance depot that there was no need to wait for the planned line blockage in the afternoon, and a general lack of understanding as to how the planning paperwork should be interpreted’.

On top of this, the system of work which had been proposed by the COSS was not adopted, and ‘the alternative arrangements became progressively less safe as the work proceeded that morning’.

The RAIB concludes that ‘these factors had created conditions that made an accident much more likely’.

The investigation is continuing.

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