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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Checks may have prevented Cumbria coast train derailment

A train derailment which left more than 100 passengers stranded for hours could have been avoided, says a new report.

Rail line landslip photo
The extent of the landslip

Related: Repairs set to begin on landslip rail line in west Cumbria

The double landslide on a stretch of line between St Bees and Nethertown caused chaos for passengers, mostly travelling to Sellafield, when the front carriage left the line.

An investigation was launched by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) into the incident, which happened when the train was travelling at 50mph.

Their newly-published report revealed the coastal land had not been examined by Network Rail since 2004 and the RAIB said there was “a lack of clarity” over who should carry out visual checks for risks on neighbouring land.

The report added: “It is possible that improved operational risk management could have prevented trains hitting the landslips, or reduced the speed of collision with debris at St Bees.”

Recommendations in the report include:

  • identifying at-risk earthworks
  • recognising when special precautions are required
  • implementing appropriate measures.

Three crew members were also onboard the 6am Maryport to Lancaster train when it came off the line a mile south of St Bees, after running into a landslip in August 2012. The derailment came as flash floods hit west Cumbria.

Three hours after becoming stranded passengers boarded a relief train, due to take them back to the nuclear plant, but their hopes were soon shattered when they hit another landslide.

Eventually, five hours later, police vehicles and coaches took them to safety. Nobody was injured in the incident and there was only minor damage to the train.

However, it could have been much worse, says the RAIB.

“If the train had derailed to a greater extent, it is possible it would have fallen down an adjacent slope,” the report said.

The St Bees incident formed part of an RAIB investigation into six landslips across the UK to “improve rail safety” by preventing future accidents.

The RAIB said: “In several instances trains were being operated without special precautions when there was a significant risk of encountering a landslip.

A spokesman for Network Rail told the News & Star: “We will carefully consider the points raised in the report and look to take action where appropriate.”

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