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Managers failings blamed for Fife derailment

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THE HEALTH & Safety Executive has blamed poor management within Railtrack and its Scottish maintenance contractor First Engineering for the derailment of a coal train in Fife in 1998.

Investigation into derailment of the English, Welsh & Scottish Railways coal train in Burntisland, Fife, in 1998 concluded that the condition of the track was the primary cause. But it identified the underlying cause as poor management.

The Fife investigation concluded that the direct cause of the derailment was the faulty installation of track fastenings in the 1960s. However it accepted that it was unlikely this could have been 'anticipated or observed in the normal form of inspection.'

A spokeswoman for the HSE likened the crash to a similar incident at Bexley in Kent in February 1997, after which management failures within Railtrack and its contractors were also blamed for causing a derailment. Firms involved in this crash were fined a total of £150,000 last year after pleading guilty (NCE 7 September 1998).

Railtrack and First Engineering accepted that track spread caused the Fife derailment but denied the accusation of poor management.

A spokesman for the two companies said: 'The underlying cause was defective track assembly in 1963. There was no way of knowing the fastening bolt into the sleeper had been fitted incorrectly.'

'We had carried out checks on that section of track shortly before the derailment because there had been some concern about gauge movement. But when we checked it was within tolerance.'

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