There are gaps in how rail authorities prepare for severe weather, a new report following the Stonehaven rail crash has said.
Train driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie and passenger Christopher Stuchbury died in the tragedy at Carmont last August.
The tragedy happened on a morning of heavy rain, which washed materials from a lineside drain onto the track.
A new report looking to improve the management of ‘weather-related events’ on the railway has been published by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).
It states that RAIB took steps in December 2014 to recommend Network Rail improves its processes for managing earthworks-related risk arising from neighbouring land.
Gaps in preparedness
RAIB also asked Network Rail to improve its data collection for imminent adverse weather.
The new report said: “Subsequent investigations have found progress in these areas, but the recent accident at Carmont shows there are still gaps in the railway’s preparedness.”
It acknowledged that Network Rail has a system so it can respond to severe weather “but it is less effective for summer storms which can be very intense and localised.”
We have published an in-depth series on the crash – called The 6.54 from Stonehaven – which features an interactive timeline of the day’s events and explains why summer downpours can be harder to predict.
You can read the series here.
In its new report, RAIB accepted Network Rail formed two independent expert-led task forces to look at weather and earthworks issues.
Both taskforces reported earlier this year, suggesting changes such as using drones in rail line inspections.
Network Rail’s safety and engineering director Martin Frobisher said: “We will carefully consider every single recommendation and develop a science-backed improvement plan, to target available money and technology in the best possible way.”
Meanwhile, Brett McCullough’s sister Salina has asked investigators to speak with a “critical witness” who is willing to disclose information about the crash site.
Ms McCullough, who has not named the individual, told us: “The RAIB inspector was introduced to this person by the Police Scotland detectives, stating ‘this was the first person to come across the landslip’.
“This person provided in-depth background as to the cause and invited the RAIB to complete an interview. This was not accepted.”
“One has to wonder why RAIB has not provided this important information.
“My question is on behalf of my brother: Does transparency exist within the RAIB?”
A RAIB spokeswoman said: “Our detailed independent investigation is ongoing as the interim report explains.
“This includes the collection and subsequent careful examination of the evidence we collect.
“Evidence is gathered in various ways from witnesses who are able to provide information that helps us understand the cause.
“The results of RAIB’s investigation and safety recommendations will be published later this year.”