The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has released its report into the freight train derailment at Eastleigh, Hampshire, that caused widespread disruption on Tuesday 28 January 2020.
The derailment, which occurred at about 11:32 on 28 January last year, involved a freight train travelling over a set of points at Eastleigh West Junction, immediately south of Eastleigh station. The locomotive hauling the train ran derailed for about 35 metres, causing significant damage to the infrastructure. Four wagons subsequently derailed on the damaged track.
Nobody was injured in the accident.
The RAIB investigation found that some of the fastenings, which hold the rails to the concrete bearers that support them, had fractured prior to the passage of the train. The local track maintenance team had not identified any faults prior to the derailment, as the fastenings had fractured below the surface of the concrete bearer and these failures were not apparent during visual inspections.
These failures allowed one of the rails to move outwards under the train, breaking further fastenings and causing the locomotive’s wheels to drop inside the rail, as it moved further outwards.
The design of these fastenings made them more prone to this type of failure when subjected to high lateral forces, which were present at these points due to the track geometry at the site and the curving characteristics of the locomotive.
Despite previous faults of a similar nature elsewhere, Network Rail had not developed an effective inspection regime to detect such failures. Measurements of the track geometry of this set of points had also not detected any indication of deterioration in the track fastening system.
RAIB also observed that the maintenance delivery unit at Eastleigh was not effectively managing the maintenance of its track assets, and that evidence identified for preservation as part of this accident investigation was lost during the track repair work undertaken by Network Rail after the derailment.
In its report, RAIB made two recommendations and noted two learning points for the future.
Both recommendations are addressed to Network Rail. The first regards the development of a management strategy to address the ongoing risk of failure of track fastening systems of the type involved in the derailment. The second concerns a review of how Network Rail measures dynamic track gauge on lines that are not monitored by a track measurement train.
The first learning point concerns the importance of ensuring the correct cause of engineering failures is identified, and that subsequent actions are taken to control the associated risks. The second learning point reminds rail industry bodies of the importance of preserving evidence for safety investigations, and their legal duty to do so.