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Greater management of third party earthworks called for by rail report

Network Rail must improve its management of earthworks and drainage risk from neighbouring land in order to minimise the risk of landslides on the UK rail network, according to a report published today.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch report was triggered by six major landslips caused by adverse weather conditions between June 2012 and February 2013 and has led to five recommendations being made to Network Rail.

The landslips occurred at Loch Treig (near Tulloch) on 28 June 2012, at Falls of Cruachan (on the line to Oban) on 18 July 2012, at Rosyth (near Edinburgh) on 18 July 2012, at St Bees (Cumbria) on 30 August 2012, at Bargoed (South Wales) on 30 January 2013 and at Hatfield Colliery (South Yorkshire) on 11 February 2013.

The report states that the landslips “were caused by factors including heavy rain, absent or ineffective drainage and activities undertaken, or not undertaken, on neighbouring land. In several instances trains were being operated without special precautions when there was a significant risk of encountering a landslip.

“Many of Network Rail’s earthworks were constructed with steeper slopes (and therefore a greater likelihood of landslips) than would be achieved with modern design procedures. Network Rail’s on-going earthwork improvement programme is unlikely to achieve modern criteria in the foreseeable future”.

The report says that although Network Rail’s process for managing earthworks risks includes consideration of those outside of its property, in some circumstances key information provided by specialist staff examining earthworks is not used when the slope management strategy is determined during evaluation.

RAIB also said that there is a lack of clarity about who should carry out visual checks for risks on neighbouring land and that where checks are carried out, the interval can be up to 10 years.

In addition to the recommendations to improve risk management of earthworks and drainage on neighbouring property, RAIB has also called for Network Rail to consider all information during evaluations and enhance the new adverse weather risk management process that the organisation has introduced since this research on this report started.

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