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September 7, 2023

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Network Rail fined £6.7m following Stonehaven derailment

Network Rail has been fined £6.7 million following fatal Stonehaven derailment that killed three people in 2020.

Train driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62, died when the train derailed on 12 August 2020. Six other people were also injured when the train struck a landslide after heavy rain.

Network Rail pleaded guilty to a number of maintenance and inspection failures before the crash in August 2020. It also admitted failing to warn the driver that part of the track was unsafe or tell him to reduce his speed.

Carmont train derailmentAs reported by the BBC, a drainage system in the area had been incorrectly installed, and so the train had been returning towards Aberdeen because the railway was blocked further down the line.

The train struck a landslide and came off the tracks, and then hit the side of a bridge, causing its power car and one of its four carriages to fall down an embankment.

At the High Court in Aberdeen today (Thursday 7 September), the company pleaded guilty to criminal charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act covering the period from May 1, 2011 to August 12, 2020.

It admitted it failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practical, that railway workers not in its employment and members of the public travelling by train were not exposed to the “risk of serious injury and death from train derailment” as a result of failures in the construction, the maintenance and inspection of drainage in the area, and adverse extreme weather planning.

“Astounding volume and variety of negligence” 

Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has made 20 recommendations for the improvement of railway safety, including: How the railway manages extreme weather events, management of civil engineering construction activities, management assurance of railway control functions, train design, and applying learning from previous events.

Neil Davidson, partner at the law firm Digby Brown, said: “I think the outcome today is vindication that this accident was avoidable and should not have happened, and holds those who were responsible to account for what happened on that tragic day back in August, 2020.

“We’re fortunate that these type of things don’t happen very often and then it’s case of those involved trying to figure out what did happen. But I think the RAIB investigation was stark in terms of its criticisms as to what happened in the past, that then led up to the day in August 2020.

“We can’t forget that this derailment did not just happen because of one problem or issue – it was a frankly astounding volume and variety of negligence that contributed to this national tragedy.”

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