THE HEALTH & SAFETY Executive this week ordered Railtrack to explain an alarming increase in track buckles.
Figures released in the HSE's annual Railway Safety Statistics bulletin on Wednesday show the number of track buckles more than tripled to 64 in the year to 31 March. The figure is the highest since 1995.
Railtrack blamed the increase on unusually high temperatures in July 1999. 'The extreme temperatures on eight days from the beginning of July to 2 August (1999) caused multiple buckles, ' said a Railtrack spokesman.
The track operator this week produced a graph to show the correlation between July temperatures and track buckles over the past five years.
The HSE said it understood that high temperatures affected the figures to a 'certain extent' but said the increase was still undesirable. It has ordered Railtrack to undertake a detailed analysis so it can 'fully understand the situation'.
HSE figures also showed a decrease in the number of broken rails by 39 from 988 to 949.
This figure is still significantly higher than in the mid-1990s (NCE 10/17 August).
Signals passed at danger fell by 12% from 643 to 568, reflecting increased Railtrack efforts to reduce the figures permanently.
However, the rate of serious SPADS remained stable between April and July 2000.
The number of deaths on the railway increased from 3 to 33, as a result of the Ladbroke Grove accident where 31 people died.
The HSE's website is at www.hse.gov.uk
Railtrack is at www.railtrack.co.uk