Rail (UK)

Rot­ted tim­bers caused Wanstead Park freight train de­rail­ment

- London · United Kingdom · Wanstead · Rail Accident Investigation Branch · Barking

De­graded lon­gi­tu­di­nal tim­bers on a bridge caused a freight train to de­rail at Wanstead Park on Jan­uary 23 2020, ac­cord­ing to the Rail Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Branch’s re­port into the in­ci­dent.

The 0531 Bark­ing Euro­hubCalvert, op­er­ated by DB Cargo, de­railed when the track spread on a bridge between Wood­grange Park and Wanstead Park in north east Lon­don, on the Gospel OakBark­ing line.

Two ad­ja­cent wheelsets from dif­fer­ent wag­ons in the rear half of the train de­railed when the track spread. One re-railed it­self after trav­el­ling for a short dis­tance, but the other re­mained de­railed as the train con­tin­ued for two and a half miles be­fore stop­ping, caus­ing sig­nif­i­cant track dam­age.

Track sup­ported on lon­gi­tu­di­nal tim­bers is sub­ject to spe­cial in­spec­tion by staff who have re­ceived ex­tra train­ing in the role.

The RAIB re­port, pub­lished on Novem­ber 16, re­vealed that the state of the tim­bers was con­cealed by their su­per­fi­cially good ex­te­rior con­di­tion. It found that the in­spec­tion method and tools used by NR were not suf­fi­cient to de­tect the tim­ber’s poor in­ter­nal con­di­tion.

NR-op­er­ated track record­ing ve­hi­cles iden­ti­fied widen­ing of the track gauge six times between March 2019 and Jan­uary 2020.

On three of those oc­ca­sions, main­te­nance staff re­sponded but car­ried out work nearby due to er­ro­neous GPS data. On the other three oc­ca­sions, the track record­ing ve­hi­cles’ soft­ware did not re­port the lo­ca­tion of the fault, so main­te­nance staff re­mained un­aware of it.

Ex­am­i­na­tion of the first wagon to de­rail and its main­te­nance records in­di­cated it had ex­pe­ri­enced un­usu­ally rapid wheel wear over sev­eral years. RAIB says it is pos­si­ble this meant it was im­pos­ing higher than nor­mal lat­eral forces on the track (re­lated to a de­fect which af­fected the way the bo­gie was able to ro­tate), suf­fi­cient to force the rails apart and cause the wagon to de­rail.

One rec­om­men­da­tion was made to NR re­gard­ing im­prove­ments in the pro­vi­sion of track record­ing ve­hi­cle data to track main­te­nance staff, and another to wagon owner VTG Rail UK con­cern­ing the mon­i­tor­ing of main­te­nance ac­tiv­i­ties to re­duce the risk of de­fec­tive rail ve­hi­cles en­ter­ing ser­vice.

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