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Grayrigg derailment recommendations still to be acted on

Five of the key recommendations to Network Rail following the fatal Grayrigg train derailment have yet to be satisfactorily implemented, more than three years after they were issued.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has highlighted that its recommendations concerning the fundamental design, management and maintenance of Network Rail’s switch and crossing assemblies are still outstanding. RAIB also believes that a recommendation intended to improve the control of working hours of safety critical staff is yet to be properly addressed.

The RAIB’s final report into the February 2007 accident, published in October 2008, found that the immediate cause of the derailment was the deterioration of a set of points through a combination of failures of the three stretcher bars, the lock stretcher bar and their fastenings.

This came about because of the mechanical failure of a bolted joint, the incorrect set up of the points and a missed track inspection. Contributory factors to the missed inspection included limited access times to the West Coast Main Line.

Grayrigg inquest

Last week an inquest jury ruled that the poorly maintained set of points had caused the crash.

This week RAIB chief inspector of rail accidents Carolyn Griffiths set out the outstanding actions in the safety organisation’s annual report.

She said the first outstanding recommendation – recommendation 1 - will be acted upon by July 2012. It requires Network Rail to carry out a detailed review of its switches & crossing (S&C) non-adjustable stretcher bar assembly design so as to better understand the relationships between the design, loading, usage and the inspection and maintenance regimes, and implement appropriate modifications.

Network Rail’s efforts to address the remaining recommendations relating to S&C’s are currently being assessed by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

Network Rail and the ORR also believe the recommendation regarding control of working hours to have been effectively tackled. But Griffiths said that in the RAIB’s opinion this remains outstanding and “contributes to my concern regarding the management of worker fatigue”.

“Whilst the ORR has reported to the RAIB that alternative measures have been taken by Network Rail to implement this particular recommendation, the ORR are now revisiting whether those measures are effective,” she said.

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