Scottish Daily Mail
HORROR ON THE 6:38
Three dead and six badly injured as early-morning express is derailed by landslip and bursts into flames
A DRIVER and conductor were among three people killed yesterday after a train plunged down an embankment and burst into flames. The passenger train had avoided a similar incident minutes earlier when a landslip was reported to be blocking the line.
But the 6.38am ScotRail high-speed service from Aberdeen to Glasgow is thought to have smashed into a second obstacle as it headed back on its original route.
Images appeared to show rocky debris at the side of the tracks.
Torrential rain and thunderstorms had caused flooding and travel disruption across many parts of Central and Eastern Scotland throughout the
night and into yesterday morning. Network Rail tweeted minutes after the crash, at 9.49am, that there had been ‘reports of a landslip’ a few miles from Stonehaven, stopping services between Dundee and Aberdeen.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said 79mm (3.1 inches) of rain fell in the area between 6am and 10am.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday demanded an urgent probe. He said: ‘As I understand, there was about a month’s worth of rainfall in a very short period which undoubtedly aggravated the problem there.
‘But I think what we’ll have to do is wait and see what the British Transport Police come up with, what exactly they identify as the cause of this derailment and working with Network Rail, with everybody, make sure that nothing like this happens again.’
Around 30 emergency services vehicles, including air ambulance support, were called to the ‘major incident’ near Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, at around 9.40am.
Crews arrived to find carriages ablaze and plumes of thick black smoke rising from the crash site.
Dramatic footage showed three passenger
‘Fast enough to cause catastrophic damage’
carriages of the Class 43 Inter7City train piled on top of each other.
Another carriage could be seen on its side having plunged down the embankment. It appeared to be partially burned out.
It is thought there were six passengers and six crew on board the 6.38am ScotRail service when it crashed.
Six injured people were taken to hospital, with at least one transported by helicopter.
British Transport Police (BTP) said it believed everyone on board had been accounted for but a more detailed search of the site would be made in the coming days.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday called it an ‘extremely serious incident’ as initial reports o the crash came in ahead of First Minister’s Questions.
She added: ‘My immediate thoughts, and the thoughts of those across the chamber, are with all those involved.’
A BTP spokesman said: ‘Very sadly, despite the best efforts of paramedics, we can confirm that three people have been pronounced dead at the scene.
‘While formal identification is yet to take place, the driver of the train is very sadly believed to have died. His family have been informed and are being supported by specially trained family liaison officers.
‘Officers are continuing to work to inform the families of the other two people who sadly died.
‘Six people have been taken to hospital to be treated for injuries, which thankfully are not believed to be serious.’
Last night ScotRail said one passenger and the train conductor as well as the driver made up the three fatalities.
In a statement on social media, the train operator said: ‘We have sadly been advised by the British Transport Police that, in addition to the driver and a passenger, one of the fatalities in the Stonehaven derailment was our conductor.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends, and colleagues of those who have lost loved ones.’
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union later confirmed a conductor had died.
Initial reports suggested the train reversed back towards Stonehaven, initially on the southbound line before crossing onto the northbound line.
The train had two locomotives – one at the back and one at the front – and four passenger carriages.
Experts said the service could have been travelling at speed.
Tony Miles, of Modern Railways magazine, said: ‘The power car clearly sustained severe damage and the carriages were piled on top of one another.
‘This could only have happened if the train was going at a significant speed. The top speed for the stretch of track where the derailment occurred is 65mph. The driver would have been assigned a speed to travel at, and investigators from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch will inevitably be listening back to the conversations he had with the local signaller.
‘They’ll also seek to recover the train’s “black box” data recorder which will allow them to piece together events.’
Mr Miles added: ‘The industry have been concerned for some time that landslips appear to be happening more often during extreme weather events.
‘This will be a bit of a wake-up call and it may lead to an official advisory for trains to travel at
slower speeds when the risk of a landslip is high.
‘The driver and local signaller may have thought the way back was clear because they had passed over it a couple of hours earlier. This may have explained why the train was going fast enough to cause catastrophic damage.’
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service received more than 1,000 emergency calls overnight from
Tuesday into yesterday morning related to severe weather.
Sepa figures show the Stonehaven area endured a heavy downpour yesterday morning.
In only two hours – between 5am and 7am – a total of 65.8mm (2.5 inches) of rain was recorded as having fallen at the nearby Dunnottar weather station.
Last week, torrential rain caused 6,000 tons of rock and mud to smother the A83 road on the other side of Scotland, at the Rest and Be Thankful in Argyll.
HM Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser said: ‘We are saddened by today’s incident and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those affected.’
He added: ‘Office of Rail and Road Inspectors are on site at Stonehaven, assisting in the preliminary investigation.
‘We will work with other agencies, including the emergency services, to find out exactly what happened and identify the causes of this tragic incident.’
Mick Lynch of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said its priority was to support ‘members, their colleagues and their families, and to do all that we can to assist the rescue operation’.
He added: ‘The facts behind this incident will need to be established in due course but at this stage we are focussed on support and assistance and our thoughts are with all those impacted by this tragedy.’ BTP chief superintendent Eddie Wylie said: ‘This is a tragic incident and first and foremost our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have very sadly died this morning.
‘We remain on scene alongside our emergency services colleagues, and a major incident operation has been under way.
‘I would like to reassure the public that this was not a busy service, and from CCTV inquiries and witness statements we believe that all the passengers have been accounted for.
‘However, once the area has been made safe then a full and thorough search will be conducted, which is likely to take some time.’
He added: ‘I know many people will understandably have questions, and we will be working closely alongside the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the Office of Rail and Road to establish the full circumstances of how the train came to derail.’
ScotRail managing director Alex
Hynes said the rail operator was working with the emergency services on site and with the relevant authorities to establish the cause of the incident.
Pledging to do ‘all we can to support’ victims and relatives after yesterday’s tragedy, Mr Hynes added: ‘Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this tragic event, particularly the families of those who have lost their lives.’
Additional reporting by Annie Butterworth and Claire Elliot
‘Facts will need to be established’