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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Rail union blames cost-cutting for Cumbrian viaduct accident

The RMT is blaming cost-cutting for an incident on the Cumbrian coast railway, which the trade union says could have ended in catastrophe.

Eskmeals viaduct photo
Eskmeals viaduct

It claims that Network Rail failed to replace worn-out wooden panels on the Eskmeals Viaduct, immediately south of Ravenglass.

A panel blew off last Friday and hit an early morning Barrow-to-Carlisle train. The union says that the train, which was carrying Sellafield workers, could have come off the tracks and plunged into the tidal waters below.

Nobody was hurt but the rail service was suspended for several hours.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “It appears that the vigilance and training of rail staff has helped avoid what could have been a major and tragic incident.

“A train running into the timbers blown onto the track could very easily have derailed and ended up in the river with lethal consequences.”

The union says that some wooden panels on the viaduct were replaced following a fire in May 2008.

Others were not replaced and it is one of these that became detached.

The RMT is demanding that Network Rail carries out permanent repairs to the viaduct.

It also wants “a major programme of investment in upgrading works” along the coastal route “in light of evidence that cost-cutting has created a culture of short-term patching up of infrastructure”.

Mr Crow added: “It appears that work should have been undertaken to replace all the wooden panels on the Eskmeals viaduct at the time of the fire. We have reason to believe those works weren’t carried out due to cost. That requires an urgent investigation.”

Network Rail denies the claims. Spokesman Keith Lumley said: “The last 10 years have seen significant investment and further schemes are proposed within the current financial-control period, ending in 2014.”

He said Harrington Viaduct was completely rebuilt in 2003, renewals were carried out on the Leven Viaduct in 2006 and repairs have been done at the Eskmeals, Drigg, Ravenglass and Calder viaducts.

He also denied that renewals at Eskmeals were not carried out because of cost.

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