DERAILMENT (and Potter's Bar)
The faulty points that caused a fatal crash in
Cumbria should have been inspected five days earlier, a rail industry
report has revealed.
It revealed a
lot more than that.
Network Rail said
the inspector's records clearly showed
that, but the inspector's supervisor then failed to pick up that the
inspection had been missed.
revealed a lot more than that. Some time before, 2 nuts had worked
their way off and nobody even bothered to ask why, and a photo taken
automatically by an inspection train showed a bent rail immediately
after a manual inspection had logged everything as in order.
The head of
Network Rail stressed many times today that points all over the country
had been inspected and nothing of the kind had occured or was about to
occur elswhere. He described it again and again as a specifically local
problem. What is he trying to say?
I suggest he is implying that in a very desolate and out-of-the-way if
albeit beautiful part of the countryside it has been employing people
with insufficient intelligence and dedication to take their job
seriously or imagine the consequence of a less than rigorous approach.
The only alternative is deliberate criminal negligence or sabotage. Can
we have it straight out please? Or does the craze for political
correctness prevent him from saying that track inspection in Cumbria
was left in the hands of some local simpletons who happened to be
The answer to the above is now only too clear. The proper people people
were on the job but so insufficient in number that the workload was
such as to render its completion to satisfaction and on time
absolutely impossible. See the entry for January 13th 2012. It has
taken 4 years for the truth to be faced.
No further comment required from me for the moment. The union claim is
that unrealistic workloads and lack of resources were the cause. If
this is the case, we need to know if this is true and if it was
properly communicated to management before the date of the accident.
Two held over Cumbria rail crash
Thursday, November 15 09:23 pm
Two rail workers have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter
following the Cumbrian train crash.
men, aged 60 and 64, are both Network Rail employees and from the Tebay
area of Cumbria, a few miles from February's crash site at Grayrigg.
They were arrested by detectives from British Transport Police (BTP).
force spokesman said, "The 64-year-old man has been released on police
bail pending further inquiries. The 60-year-old man is currently in
One woman died and 89 injured when the London to
Glasgow Pendolino express derailed in the Cumbrian countryside on the
evening of February 23.
BTP has already arrested and bailed a 46-year-old man, also a
Network Rail employee, from Preston.
The arrests relate to Margaret Masson, from Glasgow, who died in the
The two track workers were members of the Rail Maritime and
Transport Union which said it was "mystified" at the arrests.
union claimed that systematic management failings, lack of resources
and the imposition of unrealistic workloads were at the heart of the
According to the RMT, the industry's own investigations
have highlighted the need to tackle structural failings and to reverse
FEBRUARY 10th 2008
The report just completed by Her
Majesty's Railway Inspectorate for Network Rail says that there are
systematic failings and the system of track inspections nationwide is
Network Rail says they are dealing with it. But then their spokesman on
the West Coast line upgrade fiasco over Christmas said that they were
not aware that the total number of expert overhead electrical powerline
installers to draw on at short notice was 'finite'. That means we
cannot assume a basic level of intelligence in Network Rail management.
I would have thought that the number of such experts available in the
UK over the holiday, to be drawn on unexpectedly at short notice, was
unimaginably small. Infinitely large? Not a chance.
We can all understand mistakes made under pressure. We have to accept
occasional bad outcomes, but this looks like real overload at
managerial as well as ground level. The maintenance budget has gone
down at 8% over the last 3 years and more and more people travel by
OCTOBER 22nd 2008
At the end it turns out to be management failure and, reading between
the lines, very likely a failure of the design engineers to give
proper, clear instructions on the fitting and the critical maintenance
of the railway parts and components they had approved and issued.
of the design, maintenance and
inspection of the stretcher bars used in the points, the RAIB said.
NR we can take it that this understanding should have reached
management and the men on the ground. So who was it who DID have the
understanding and why did this understanding fail to be transmitted?
Was it never committed to clear text on paper or electronic file? Was
the clear text not given to management, or did management get it but
not understand it? Did they pass it on? At what point did the critical
knowledge fail to get to those fitting and those inspecting? We
are told nothing here. I guess I will have to read the whole sodding
Rail crash report blames checks
Track maintenance failures contributed to a train crash in
which left one person dead and dozens injured, a report has concluded.
Margaret Masson, 84, of
Glasgow, died and 82 people were hurt when a Virgin West Coast
Pendolino train derailed at 95mph near Grayrigg in February 2007.
A Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report published on
Thursday made 29 safety recommendations.
Three men were arrested after the crash. Two have since been
The 255-page report said rail infrastructure company Network Rail
incorrectly set up points that failed and were the ultimate cause of
| The tragedy at Grayrigg was
caused by the failure of our infrastructure, something we were
devastated to discover.
Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher
NR had an "incomplete understanding" of the design, maintenance and
inspection of the stretcher bars used in the points, the RAIB said.
The organisation also failed to carry out a planned track
inspection of the points five days before the fatal crash.
The RAIB said that the immediate cause of the derailment was the
deterioration of the points at Lambrigg through a combination of
failures of the points' three stretcher bars, the lock stretcher bar,
and their fastening.
The report said that in the 35 years since the design of points used
Lambrigg was introduced there had been no previous catastrophic
accident associated with the type of stretcher bars used in the design.
Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: "The
tragedy at Grayrigg was caused by the failure of our infrastructure,
something we were devastated to discover.
"We immediately accepted responsibility for the
accident and once again apologise today to Mrs Masson's family and all
"Following a comprehensive and detailed industry investigation we
made immediate changes to our maintenance regime.
"Travel by rail is the safest form of travel and despite Grayrigg,
railways are safer than ever before. It is important that the rail
industry seeks ways to make it safer still and this report should help
Local MP Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat member for
Westmorland & Lonsdale, is calling for a public inquiry into wider
He said: "Quite properly, this RAIB report only looked at the
"However, naturally, all of us will be drawing comparisons with
other points-related tragedies, especially Potters Bar.
"The conclusions of this report only underline the need for a full
public inquiry to look at wider safety issues."
Twenty-one of 29 RAIB safety recommendations are directed at
Network Rail and include measures to tackle staff fatigue.
The RAIB said a report into the 2002 Potters Bar crash identified a
need for NR to better understand the different designs of points used
on the rail network.
The report said: "NR had accepted the value of such an
approach but did not consider its application to existing points with
non-adjustable stretcher bars to be a priority."
The report said Virgin's Pendolino train "performed"
better than had been seen with earlier designs of trains in previous
However, it went on to say safety could be improved by better
designed seat mountings and overhead lighting panels.
Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon welcomed the report and said a
on an inquest into the Potters Bar tragedy would be taken in the New
The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union renewed its
call for a joint public inquiry into the Grayrigg and Potters Bar
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "It is now
abundantly clear that systematic management failings, lack of resources
and the fragmented contract culture still prevalent on the railway all
played their part in the complex of causes of the Grayrigg derailment.
"For NR to attempt, as it did, to point the finger of
blame at individuals it managed so poorly was outrageous, and for
police to keep two of our members under suspicion of manslaughter for
nearly a year without a shred of evidence demands an apology."
THE POTTERS BAR RAIL CRASH
JULY 30th 2010
I refrained from comment on the Potters Bar
accident at the time on this web-site as I had quite a lot to say about
it elsewhere. It may not have been sabotage but there is little
difference between a culture and systems that are totally
irresponsible by their very design (or the state into which they have
deteriorated) and deliberate criminal negligence. It is clear that no
criminal prosecution is likely to succeed in such an environment where,
when a serious problem is reported on a line, nobody is responsible for
doing anything more than suggesting somebody take a look at it. The
cause for the serious jolt reported by passengers the day before the
accident required an inspector to find and identify the cause. If it
was not found, it was clear they were not looking in the right place
and further steps should have been taken to check with the originator
of the report.
That the points were in the state they were in the first place, while
unacceptable, is not to my mind as criminal as the failure to take
action whe there was a warning. The union involved now says cuts in the
workforce make it likely that there will be even less chance of keeping
on top of proper inspection and maintenance; but it would appear it is
not the number of employees that is the issue but how seriously they
take the job.
Using more technology to replace manpower only makes sense if those in
charge of the technology are of the right frame of mind. All too often
technology can result in less human attention and unless the technology
itself then benefits from its proper use by people who really know
railways as well as the new toys they have been given, we can look
forward to a new type of disaster rather than increased safety. Our
motorway network is remotely patrolled by teams of people equipped with
computers who manage to misinform motorists on every conceivable
occasion of the state of the road ahead. A sign warning of fog will
certainly mean the visibility is perfect, a sign saying it is clear
ahead should be taken as a serious warning. The last 10 years of my
experience has shown that the ignorance of the operators of the
relation of their warnings of every sort to the reality is almost
total, so the feedback from motorists must be zero. All temporary
speed-limits warning of trouble ahead are routinely ignored by all
motorists and I am not surprised, while the end of a speed limit may
well indicate severe congestion just a few miles ahead - not as a
result, I hasten to add.
The point I am trying to make is that in comparison to e.g. the French
the modern British do not take well to technology at the industrial
level where it is critical to the modernisation of a mobile society.
They do not take well to it in the mines or in the nuclear industry at
the level where care and technical expertise equals safety. How
different this is from the past, when the reverse was the case. We took
to the steam age like ducks to water and throughout WWII the men who
ran the railways were the heroes of the day.
The survivors and relations of the Potters Bar crash victims want a
public enquiry. I am normally against such things as being quite
useless; however there needs to be a discussion and some decisions on
how to move forward in the whole business of staffing our public
transport systems and educating and training the people who are going
to take responsibility for them. At the moment, we have unions engaged
in an argument about staffing numbers and wages and in who wield the
power in deciding thes things. This is utterly disgusting when what
should be discussed, by people who understand it, is what technology
will be used and what it will cost, who will use it and what tasks are
better carried out by individuals, even if aided by technical devices,
than delegated to programs and processors and automatons. Many people
think we need more human involvement, not less, in quite a few areas of
our modern routine systematic operations involving goods and services
MAY 13th 2011
Some years have passed and we have a judgement on the Potters Bar
accident. The £3 Million fine does not punish those responsible
though it may form part of a book-keeping exercise to fund the justice
system. The judgement is the thing.
Judge Bright, presiding at St Albans Crown
Court, said Railtrack's procedures and standards were "seriously
inadequate" and that the serious faults with the points "could and
should have been identified sooner".
The company's failures put the travelling public and train crews at
the risk of serious injury, the judge said.
Considering how far within Railtrack the failings went, Judge Bright
said that although there were very serious failings by Jarvis, "overall
responsibility for the breach of duty lay with Railtrack at senior
management level and their failures were significant and extensive".
NOVEMBER 1st 2011
MORE ON CUMBRIA
Rail engineer broke down in tears as he told an inquest he
forgot to inspect the points which caused the Grayrigg train crash in
It is clear these guys were under excessive
pressure, understaffed and with unclear and bullying management.
JANUARY 13th 2012