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Rotten track caused Bexley rail crash

BAD MANAGEMENT by Railtrack and its contractors caused the 1997 Bexley rail crash, according to the conclusions of a report into the accident published last week.

Four people were injured and extensive structural damage caused to a viaduct when seven wagons of a freight train derailed and crashed off the embankment at Bexley in Kent (NCE 6 February 1997).

The report by the Health & Safety Executive lists 15 lessons to be learnt from the crash (see analysis) but identifies the primary cause

as lateral movement of the rails due to rotten longitudinal support timbers on an 8m stretch of track on the viaduct.

The rotten timber meant that the rails were free to move when trains passed over them. Overloading on one of the wagons, which were also travelling too fast, placed unusually high loads on the track and was given as a contributing factor.

However, the underlying cause was identified as bad management. The dangerous condition of the timber had been known to Railtrack and its maintenance contractors South East Infrastructure Maintenance and Southern Track Renewals.

Although the timbers had been identified for repair nothing had been done prior to the crash.

(See Analysis page 10)

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