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A catalogue of failures by Network Rail and disgraced outsourcing giant Carillion caused the fatal Stonehaven train disaster, a damning investigation announced today.

Mistakes making a drainage system by the now-liquidated construction firm meant it was unable to cope with heavy rain which fell in Aberdeenshire.

Rail Accident Investigation Branch experts said Carillion had added a bund – a bank supposed to protect against leaks – to the drainage system but did not tell Network Rail.

As the rain fell on the morning of August 12, 2020, it caused gravel to be washed out onto the line. 

A ScotRail train derailed at 9.37am after hitting debris and other stony material washed out from the drain, killing three people Brett McCullough, 45; the conductor, Donald Dinnie, 58; and a passenger, Christopher Stuchbury, 62. The other six people onboard were injured.

The train smashed into the side of a bridge, causing its power car and one of its four carriages to fall down an embankment. Network Rail and Carillion had been warned by the landowner eight years earlier was affected by surface water from its drain, but it was never followed up.

Neil Davidson, of Digby Brown Solicitors, which is acting for those injured and for the family of one of the deceased said: ‘This is a damning report which highlights a catalogue of failures within Network Rail.

‘The RAIB investigation clearly shows rail management had prior knowledge of several known risks. They were told to improve, yet still failed to act.

Differences in the design of the drain and the way it was built meant it was unable to cope with heavy rain which fell in Aberdeenshire

Differences in the design of the drain and the way it was built meant it was unable to cope with heavy rain which fell in Aberdeenshire

Differences in the design of the drain and the way it was built meant it was unable to cope with heavy rain which fell in Aberdeenshire

hree people were killed when a ScotRail train derailed after hitting gravel and other stony material washed out from the drain.

hree people were killed when a ScotRail train derailed after hitting gravel and other stony material washed out from the drain.

hree people were killed when a ScotRail train derailed after hitting gravel and other stony material washed out from the drain.

Photo issued by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) of a drain near to the site of the Stonehaven rail crash which was caused by errors in the construction of a drainage system by failed outsourcing giant Carillion

Photo issued by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) of a drain near to the site of the Stonehaven rail crash which was caused by errors in the construction of a drainage system by failed outsourcing giant Carillion

Photo issued by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) of a drain near to the site of the Stonehaven rail crash which was caused by errors in the construction of a drainage system by failed outsourcing giant Carillion

A map shows the lineside features in the area of the landslip, which caused the derailment on August 12

A map shows the lineside features in the area of the landslip, which caused the derailment on August 12

A map shows the lineside features in the area of the landslip, which caused the derailment on August 12

The Glasgow-bound train found its route blocked by a landslip to the south, so it was diverted back to its last stop in Stonehaven after a two-hour delay waiting for the weather to clear. But after switching track and heading back northbound it hit another landslide in the Carmont area - before striking and destroying a bridge parapet at speed

The Glasgow-bound train found its route blocked by a landslip to the south, so it was diverted back to its last stop in Stonehaven after a two-hour delay waiting for the weather to clear. But after switching track and heading back northbound it hit another landslide in the Carmont area - before striking and destroying a bridge parapet at speed

The Glasgow-bound train found its route blocked by a landslip to the south, so it was diverted back to its last stop in Stonehaven after a two-hour delay waiting for the weather to clear. But after switching track and heading back northbound it hit another landslide in the Carmont area – before striking and destroying a bridge parapet at speed

This aerial photograph of the derailment site in Aberdeenshire was released by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch

This aerial photograph of the derailment site in Aberdeenshire was released by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch

This aerial photograph of the derailment site in Aberdeenshire was released by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch

‘This is the very definition of negligence and as a result people were killed or injured. It should come as no surprise that many now hope further action will be taken against Network Rail.

‘Right now, as a bare minimum, those responsible for running and managing the railway need to swiftly provide survivors and families with the support they deserve while implementing all of the RAIB’s recommendations in full and without delay.’

The drainage system was built during 2011 and 2012 to address a problem with ground stability.

RAIB deputy chief inspector, Andrew Hall, said: ‘The sad irony of the accident is that a fairly modern drain that was put there to reduce the risk of a landslip on a cutting slope was in fact the thing that brought the risk to the railway.’

The most significant difference between the design of the drainage system and its construction was the addition of a bund – a structure to protect against leaks – which significantly altered the flow of water.

On the day of the crash, this caused a large amount of water to be diverted into the drain at one location, increasing the likelihood of gravel being washed out.

Train driver Brett McCullough, 45, is pictured after meeting Queen's Brian May who was once a passenger on one of his trains

Train driver Brett McCullough, 45, is pictured after meeting Queen's Brian May who was once a passenger on one of his trains

Train driver Brett McCullough, 45, is pictured after meeting Queen’s Brian May who was once a passenger on one of his trains

Train conductor Donald Dinnie

Train conductor Donald Dinnie

Passenger Christopher Stuchbury

Passenger Christopher Stuchbury

Train conductor Donald Dinnie (left) and passenger Christopher Stuchbury (right) also died in the crash in August 2020

This graphic shows what unfolded on the day of August 12 which eventually led to the ScotRail train derailing

This graphic shows what unfolded on the day of August 12 which eventually led to the ScotRail train derailing

This graphic shows what unfolded on the day of August 12 which eventually led to the ScotRail train derailing

The RAIB concluded that if the system had been built in accordance with designs, it was ‘highly likely to have safely accommodated the flow of surface water’.

Carillion, which went into compulsory liquidation in January 2018, failed to inform Network Rail it was adding the bund.

Investigators found no evidence that Network Rail carried out any inspection of the upper parts of the system between when it viewed the completed work in March 2013 and the accident.

They stated that the Government-owned company failed to add that section of the structure to an internal programme which would have triggered routine inspections and maintenance.

The inquiry also noted that the owner of the land where the system was installed took a photograph showing ‘slight erosion’ in December 2012 which he passed on to Carillion or Network Rail.

This was ‘clear evidence of a problem requiring action’, the report stated.

The RAIB concluded that if the drainage system had been built in accordance with designs, it was 'highly likely to have safely accommodated the flow of surface water'

The RAIB concluded that if the drainage system had been built in accordance with designs, it was 'highly likely to have safely accommodated the flow of surface water'

The RAIB concluded that if the drainage system had been built in accordance with designs, it was ‘highly likely to have safely accommodated the flow of surface water’

Three people were killed when a ScotRail train derailed after hitting gravel and other stony material washed out from the drain

Three people were killed when a ScotRail train derailed after hitting gravel and other stony material washed out from the drain

Three people were killed when a ScotRail train derailed after hitting gravel and other stony material washed out from the drain

An investigator near the site of the Stonehaven rail crash which was caused by errors in the construction of a drainage system

An investigator near the site of the Stonehaven rail crash which was caused by errors in the construction of a drainage system

An investigator near the site of the Stonehaven rail crash which was caused by errors in the construction of a drainage system

How the Stonehaven train tragedy unfolded

  • 6.38am: The ScotRail train leaves Aberdeen station as normal, bound for Glasgow Queen Street.
  • 6.53am: The train calls at Stonehaven station as normal, before departing and heading south
  • 6.59am: The train is stopped by the signaller at Carmont who has just received a report from another train driver that a landslip was obstructing the line. 
  • 7am-9am: The train then stands south of Carmont for more than two hours due to the torrential downpours
  • 9am: The rain stops and the skies begin to brighten
  • 9.25am: The train is given permission to start moving north back towards Stonehaven.
  • 9.36am: The train passes a crossover point
  • 9.38am: The train hits a landslip covering the line and derails, killing three people including the driver
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Between 6am and 9am on the morning of the accident there was near-continuous heavy rain.

The 51.5mm which fell at the crash site was close to the average monthly total for the month of August in that region.

The 6.38am service from Aberdeen to Glasgow was returning towards Aberdeen at the time of the accident due to the railway being blocked.

It was travelling at 73mph, which was just below the normal permitted speed for that line.

The RAIB said no instruction was given by railway controllers or signallers that the train should run slower, with one signaller telling the driver the line was ‘fine’.

The inquiry found the controllers had not been given the information or training they needed to effectively manage ‘complex situations’ such as the one they were encountering on the day of the crash.

Network Rail’s management processes had not identified or addressed weaknesses in the way it mitigated the consequences of extreme rainfall.

The organisation also failed to implement measures following previous severe weather events.

Mr Hall said Network Rail ‘hadn’t moved far enough to eliminate’ the risk of heavy rainfall.

The RAIB found that the refurbished HST train involved in the crash was designed before modern safety standards came into force.

It concluded ‘it is more likely than not that the outcome would have been better’ if a train built to current regulations was involved.

Some 20 safety recommendations were made to improve railway safety, many of which were directed at Network Rail.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it would be a ‘disservice’ to the men who died if lessons were not learned.

He said: ‘I fully expect the rail industry to ensure all the recommendations of this report are actioned and that the vital work to make our network safer and more resilient continues, so no other families have to experience what theirs tragically did.’

Kevin Lindsay, Aslef’s full-time organiser in Scotland, said Network Rail and ScotRail ‘must be held to account’ as they ‘failed the staff and the passengers who were on the train’.

He also called for Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland’s Railway, a group of Government and rail industry organisations, to resign.

‘Given his involvement in both Network Rail and Abellio ScotRail, his position is untenable,’ Mr Lindsay said.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: ‘We must do better and we are utterly committed to that.’

He added: ‘We have invested tens of millions towards improving the general resilience of our railway and how we predict and respond to such events.

‘But this remains a multi-generational challenge and there is still much to do.’

The crash was the first involving the fatality of a passenger onboard a train in Britain since the Grayrigg derailment of 2007.

Source: Daily Mail

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