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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Union warning over 'cuts' in wake of derailment

Engineers ar working to get a stretch of line where a landslide caused a train to derail reopened.

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Drama on the line: Engineers inspect the track, above, after the landslide which caused the train derailment at Nethertown, above left

A team working for Network Rail started the task of making the line at Nethertown, one mile from St Bees station, secure.

And they are also strengthening sea defences at the same time by bringing in three-tonne rocks to sit on the shore line. The line is not expected to be reopened until Monday.

Meanwhile a union says this the derailment powerfully illustrated why government plans to cut costs in the rail industry would put passengers at risk. The RMT rail union says the important role played by both the train’s guard, who looked after the passengers, and a mobile operations manager, would not have been possible if rail reforms proposed by Sir Roy McNulty are ever put into practice.

Network Rail was considering using helicopters to bring in the equipment to clear the rail line because of the remote location of the landslide.

But after consideration it will be brought by rail and also along the narrow roads which lead to Nethertown station.

On Thursday 102 passengers were stranded on the derailed train for five hours until they were rescued.

Disaster struck at 6.45am when the front wheels of the train came off the railway line after part of the track was pushed onto the beach by the landslide.

Terrified passengers said that the carriages rattled and bumped before grounding to a halt.

Three hours after becoming stranded, passengers were loaded one-by-one onto a relief train, which had travelled from Sellafield and was due to take them back to the nuclear plant.

But their hopes were soon shattered when they hit another landslide, the other side of Nethertown station, and had to turn around and head back to where they had came from.

Police vehicles and coaches met them off the train and finally took them to safety – five hours after the train derailed.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch immediately started to conduct an investigation.

A Network Rail helicopter scoured the west coast line, searching for further problems.

Jo Kaye, Network Rail route managing director, said that the line is likely to reopen on Monday morning.

“The location is making the work we need to do extremely difficult,” she said. “There is virtually no road access to the site so it is likely that all the material needed will have to be brought as close as possible by train.”

Coaches will transport passengers between Whitehaven and Sellafield while the work is being carried out.

Former Civil Aviation Authority chairman Sir Roy McNulty has made recommendations which he said could deliver annual savings of £1bn by 2019.

But the RMT Carlisle based regional official Craig Johnston seized on the derailment as an example of why guards and mobile operations managers are crucial to safety.

He said: “The guard helped with the evacuation of passengers and kept the situation calm.

“And one of the first people to reach the scene was a mobile safety operations manager, who also assisted.

“Both of these roles are safety critical, but they’re both under threat because the McNulty report makes it absolutely clear that they want driver-only trains.”

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