Network Rail to inspect dozens of sites with higher-risk trackside slopes

Landslips don't just happen in Scotland. This one closed the Heart of Wales line at around the same time as the Stonehaven accident occurred, due to heavy rainfall on 12 and 13 August 2020.

Before he left the site of the fatal train crash at Carmont, near Stonehaven in Scotland, Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines addressed the speculation that torrential rainfall and flooding was the cause of the accident, with the government asking Network Rail to review its resilience to, and management of, extreme weather. He made it clear that, while the cause is not yet known, precautionary measures were being immediately implemented.

“I will not pre-empt the outcome of the investigation into this awful event, but it is clear the weather was appalling and there were floods and landslips in the area,” he said. “I have asked my teams to put extra measures in place, from immediate, heightened inspections to medium-term work with meteorologists, to improve information and forecasting.”

There’s a railway under there somewhere! Floods at Perth, just 70 miles from the site of the Carmont accident, taken at around the same time on the same day.

The measures Andrew outlined include:

  • As an immediate precaution, dozens of sites nationwide with higher-risk trackside slopes, similar to Stonehaven, will be inspected both by in-house engineers and specialist contractors and will be supplemented by helicopter surveys;
  • Mobilisation of Network Rail’s extreme weather action teams, which already monitor the network, so as to incorporate immediate learning into their plans as soon as it becomes available; 
  • Continuing dialogue with meteorologists to understand how to strengthen real time information for train operators of flash flooding caused by unpredictable extreme weather;
  • A review of existing programme for the remote monitoring of high-risk sites to test whether this can go faster or further.
Andrew Haines, Network Rail.

Andrew concluded by saying: “Our climate is changing and it is increasingly challenging the performance and reliability of the railway, but incidents like yesterday’s devastating accident are incredibly rare, and our railway remains the safest major railway in Europe.

“Our network was designed for a temperate climate, and it’s challenged when we get extremes such as storms and floods. We’re seeing this more and more and although we can address them on the ground with precautionary measures, we are acutely aware we need a long-term resolution, and we had already secured additional funding and resources to help achieve this.

“Yesterday was a tragedy, a truly horrific event, and my thoughts remain with everyone affected. Understanding what happened is the key to making sure it never occurs again.”

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