Rail track timebombs
Day after derailment kills three, second landslip brings chaos – and rain raises fears of more disasters
‘Extreme weather action teams’
A SECOND landslip brought chaos to Britain’s railway network yesterday – 24 hours after a fatal train crash in Scotland.
As violent thunderstorms continued to lash the country, a train in Kent became stuck and passengers were evacuated.
It came as engineers were called in to urgently inspect embankments following Wednesday’s ScotRail train derailment in Aberdeenshire which left three dead and six injured. One senior rail industry source described the accident near Stonehaven as a ‘disaster waiting to happen’.
A landslide following heavy rain is suspected to have contributed to the tragedy. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch is due to give its initial findings today.
Yesterday’s incident involved a Southeastern train at West Malling.
Photos on social media showed debris built up close to tracks, with what appeared to be part of a tree lying in contact with the bottom of the train carriage.
Police said they evacuated 19 people from the train and they would continue their journey by coach.
Network Rail yesterday said engineers were inspecting embankments with ‘similar characteristics’ to those at the scene of the Aberdeenshire accident. The company, which is responsible for the operation of Britain’s railways, said it had also ‘mobilised extreme weather action teams’ and consulted meteorologists on strengthening its flash flood alert systems.
Rail experts have questioned why the train was allowed to run following a night of storms. The service involved in the crash, the 6.38am from Aberdeen to Glasgow, was allowed to run despite others being cancelled that morning.
ScotRail warned on Twitter of heavy flooding in the area where the derailment occurred.
A senior rail industry source said: ‘We have been surprised for some time that services have been allowed to run after severe weather overnight. In some respects, this was a disaster waiting to happen especially as the severity of weather incidents appears to be increasing year on year.’
Train driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie and passenger Christopher Stuchbury were all killed in the crash. Union officials said colleagues ‘thought the world’ of Mr McCullough, 45, who leaves behind his wife Stephanie and three children.
The driver, who worked out of Aberdeen’s train depot, lived close to the site of the crash.
A family statement read: ‘We have lost a wonderful husband, father, and son in the most awful of circumstances. Brett was the most decent and loving human being we have ever known.’
The family of Mr Stuchbury, 62, described him as a ‘treasured’ husband and grandfather.
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps visited the site of the derailment yesterday. Mr Haines said climate change posed a threat to the safety of Britain’s rail infrastructure. He said: ‘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. Yesterday was a tragedy, a truly horrific event, and my thoughts remain with everyone affected.’
Four of those injured in the train crash near Stonehaven have been discharged from hospital.
The two others are said to be in a stable condition.
The last major rail accident happened in February 2007, when a Virgin Trains services derailed on the West Coast Main Line in Cumbria. One woman died and 89 other people were injured.