NETWORK RAIL is launching a series of nationwide checks on ‘higher-risk’ earthworks in the wake of the derailment near Stonehaven, in which three people lost their lives and six were injured. The checks on embankments and cutting walls will be carried out by Network Rail’s own engineers, supported by specialist contractors and helicopter surveys.
The government has asked Network Rail to review its resilience and management of extreme weather.
The direct cause of the disaster has not yet been confirmed, but it may have been a landslip following heavy rain. However, if so, it is also not clear whether the line was blocked by debris from above or distorted by a subsiding embankment below.
Network Rail’s said its extreme weather action teams have been mobilised, and that any lessons from the accident site will be taken into account straight away. In related moves, engineers are reviewing remote monitoring of high-risk sites, and meteorologists are being consulted to see if real time information about flash floods can be improved.
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines visited the crash scene with transport secretary Grant Shapps, who were both shown the site from a helicopter.
Mr Haines has identified climate change as an increasing challenge to performance and reliability. He said: ‘I will not pre-empt the outcome of the investigation into this awful event, but it is clear the weather was appalling and there were floods and landslips in the area. I have asked my teams to put extra measures in place, from immediate, heightened inspections, to medium-term work with meteorologists to improve information and forecasting.
‘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.
‘Understanding what happened is the key to making sure it never occurs again.’
Rail Delivery Group chief executive Paul Plummer added: ‘Our thoughts and those of everyone working in the railway are with the loved ones of those who lost their lives and were injured. Passenger safety is absolutely paramount for rail companies which is why tragic incidents like these are thankfully so rare, and why it is vital to learn any lessons from what happened. As investigations continue, we will support all efforts to build further resilience to extreme weather in future.’