Network Rail has been handed a £733,000 fine after a freight train derailed due to ineffective short-term repairs.
It was also ordered to pay costs of £70,000 at Bristol Crown Court for failing to undertake adequate maintenance to prevent the derailment near Gloucester in October 2013.
The train partially derailed four miles south west of Gloucester station and continued to travel until it reached Gloucester West Junction where it collided with the facing points. An empty 5.9 tonne container dislodged and fell down an embankment causing “extensive” damage and throwing debris into the road below.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found that Network Rail staff at Gloucester maintenance depot had identified the ongoing track defect, worsened by inadequate drainage at the site of the derailment, but the short and medium-term repairs were ineffective and the planned long-term solution had not been implemented.
The derailment was caused by a ’cyclic top’ track defect - a series of dips in the track in succession - which causes an increasing level of “bounce” in the freight train’s suspension, Network Rail said.
ORR head of Network Rail route teams Tom Wake said: “Given Network Rail’s failure to remedy this ongoing fault, it was only a matter of time before a derailment took place, creating a genuine risk to passengers and the public.
“In this instance it was extremely fortunate that the loose container did not fall into the path of an oncoming train or cause injury to the public as it fell.
“The fine issued today sends a powerful message to the industry that the ORR is committed to protecting the safety of Britain’s railways and will not hesitate to take enforcement action when and where it is necessary.”
Network Rail’s safety, technical and engineering director Graham Hopkins said: “We have come a long way since the derailment of a freight train in Gloucester 2013.
“The derailment highlighted an issue with the network and since then we have developed world leading technology to detect and manage the type of fault that caused this incident and have implemented a strong set of initiatives to deliver repairs that are high-quality and robust first time.
“Our maintenance and renewals processes are designed to provide the highest level of safety for our passengers and train operators, and Britain has the safest railway in Europe.”