Rail bosses are facing a backlash after part of a north-east bridge collapsed less than a mile from the site of last year’s fatal derailment.
Around 24 metres of the side wall of a bridge at Tewel near Stonehaven gave way in poor weather conditions at around 10am on Friday.
Inspections were carried out at various “at-risk” points between Aberdeen and Laurencekirk in the aftermath.
The latest incident, which was not caused by a landslip, led to further safety fears and criticism – including from relatives of one of the men who passed away in August.
Salina McCullough, the sister of train driver Brett, claimed rail chiefs were “running trains on a wing and a prayer”.
She praised the person who raised the alarm – but said she was “horrified” by the collapse, and by “regular” safety failings.
Calling for inspections at all at-risk sites on the rail network, Salina urged bosses to act – and claimed more lives could be lost.
She said: “While I am thankful no one was injured, thanks to one individual, I am once again horrified that major safety failures are such a regular occurrence.
“One would surmise that five months after Stonehaven they’d have already carried out their assessments to the areas of risk already known to them. Once more they struck lucky and no one was hurt.
“It is critical that surveys and remedial works are carried out at every single “at risk” area as a matter of urgency, regardless of their budget concerns or manpower.
“They are running trains on a wing and a prayer, and continue to put lives at risk, it is only a matter of time before there are more deaths. When are they going to wake up? When will there be a major turnaround in leadership?
“Clearly, the current organisational structure isn’t working, so clear out the dead wood and bring in some experienced risk assessors before more people are taken from their families.”
Trade union bosses also called for action to be taken by rail chiefs and government ministers, and warned of a growing number of instances of infrastructure failure.
Gordon Martin, the regional organiser of the RMT union, said he was “absolutely not surprised” by the incident and called for urgent talks with railway chiefs.
He added: “I have raised concerns with Network Rail about the number of incidents on the railway and infrastructure.
“I am absolutely not surprised this has happened and we will be seeking a meeting with Network Rail once the facts have been established.
“This latest incident is little more than a stone’s throw from where three people lost their lives and the amount of issues there have been with infrastructure is becoming terrifying.
“The rail network needs a bit of investment because it is a real worry just now.”
The train drivers’ union ASLEF urged government ministers to hand Network Rail more funding to ensure the safety of staff and passengers across the country.
A spokesman said: “ASLEF believes it is vital the government at Westminster properly funds Network Rail so it can properly look after and maintain all the railway lines and infrastructure in England, Scotland and Wales.
“There are particular concerns over the impact of climate change on the rail network. The landslips near Stonehaven last year and this one are by no means the only ones which are happening on the railway.
“Although it is incumbent on Network Rail to maintain bridges and track, it is vital they are given the money to properly maintain the infrastructure – not just for the safety of passengers, but for the safety of train staff.”
Specialist engineers are on site and will remain there in the coming days to assess and begin repairs on the “extensive” damage.
It is understood the line is likely to be closed for several days while repair work is carried out.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “The line is currently closed while our engineers repair a damaged side wall on a bridge between Carmont and Stonehaven.
“Specialist structural engineers are currently assessing the fault and putting plans in place for its repair.
“Our engineers will be working around-the-clock to complete this work as quickly as possible.”