The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has released its interim report into the fatal accident on 3 July 2019, in which two track workers were struck and fatally injured by a passenger train at Margam East Junction on the South Wales main line and a third track worker came very close to being struck.
The investigation is continuing, but the interim report describes the findings and conclusions so far and outlines the areas which the RAIB feels need further investigation.
In it’s 20 pages, the interim report concludes that the three workers, who were part of a group of six that were carrying out maintenance work on a set of points, were working on a line that was open to traffic, without the presence of formally appointed lookouts to warn them of approaching trains. All three workers were almost certainly wearing ear defenders, because one of them was using a noisy power tool, and all had become focused with the task they were undertaking. None of them was aware that a train was approaching them until it was too late to move to a position of safety.
The train’s driver had made an emergency application of the train’s brakes about nine seconds before the accident and the train was travelling at about 50mph (80km/h) when it struck the track workers.
Working on an open line without a formally appointed lookout meant that no single individual stood apart from the work activity at the points with the sole responsibility of providing a warning when trains approached. The absence of a lookout with no involvement in the work activity removed a vital safety barrier.
The RAIB investigators found that the planning paperwork for the work on 9577B points indicated that the work was to start at 12:30, to coincide with the planned blockage of the up main line. However, witness evidence suggests that there was a widespread belief at the local maintenance depot that there was no need to wait for the planned line blockage in the afternoon, and a general lack of understanding as to how the planning paperwork should be interpreted.
The system of work that the COSS had proposed to implement before the work began was not adopted, and the alternative arrangements became progressively less safe as the work proceeded that morning. RAIB felt that these factors had created conditions that made an accident much more likely.
The investigation continues. Network Rail has already released its own interim report into the accident. Regulator the Office of Rail and Road is also said to be carrying out an investigation.