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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
January 25, 2010

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Accident report highlights wrangle over Grayrigg response

A report on the derailment of a freight train in 2008 has brought

Network Rail’s response to the earlier Grayrigg passenger-train crash

under the microscope.

On 23 February 2007, a high-speed passenger train travelling from London to Glasgow derailed on points at Grayrigg, Cumbria, killing one woman and injuring 88 others. In October 2008, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) made 29 safety recommendations — the majority of which related to a review of the design, inspection and maintenance of points.

However, a report on a separate train derailment at Marks Tey, Essex in June 2008, has highlighted that a number of safety recommendations issued in response to Grayrigg, and relevant to the Marks Tey incident, are the subject of dispute between the rail authorities and the industry.

According to the RAIB, six out of ten safety recommendations on track inspection and repair have either not been implemented at all, or have not been fully implemented to the satisfaction of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

The Grayrigg report recommended that Network Rail should review its processes for practical training, assessment and competence assurance for those undertaking signals and communication inspection and maintenance against current best practice, and review how human factors impact on the performance and outcome of inspection and maintenance. On both these proposals, Network Rail has decided against implementation, even though the ORR and the RAIB consider them necessary.

The RMT union believes the response by Network Rail to the track inspection and repair recommendations arising from the Grayrigg derailment is tied in with maintenance job cuts, and argues that the consequences could be fatal if safety is undermined in this way.

General secretary Bob Crow said: “It is a shocking indictment of Network Rail’s attitude to safety that, three years after the fatal derailment at Grayrigg, they have failed to either implement, or implement fully, the majority of the key track-inspection and repair recommendations outlined in the report into Marks Tey.

“There is no doubt that the impact of the planned maintenance job losses will have lethal consequences and will create the perfect conditions for another Grayrigg, Potters Bar, or Marks Tey derailment.”

The union has vowed to lobby Parliament on the issue on Wednesday (27 January).

However, a spokesperson for Network Rail defended the industry’s safety record. He told SHP: “We are confident that the actions we have taken after the incidents to which the RMT refers address any significant concerns, and we are working with the ORR to close out any outstanding issues. Our safety record is one of which we are proud — rail is safer than ever before; indeed it is the safest form of transport in Britain.”

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