Unsafe working practices in Network Rail’s track renewal work were among the factors that led to a passenger train being struck by a rail last year, a report into the incident has said.
A Cross Country train struck a piece of rail that was being moved as part of maintenance work at Washwood Heath in Birmingham on 6 March 2010, said the report that was published this week.
The leading vehicle of the train struck the rail, which was being moved as part of track relaying work being carried out on another line. The rail was being lifted by a road rail vehicle.
The investigation by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) found that the accident, which damaged the front and side of the train and slightly injured the driver, was caused by a combination of factors. These included unsafe working practices in the maintenance work, which did not comply with industry rules or Network Rail’s procedures.
The investigation also found that the supervisor in charge of the track relaying work was not adequately managed and was not challenged over his unsafe method of work.
Among other factors that contributed to the incident was that the original work plan may have been unrealistic, such as a push to get the work done by a 31 March deadline.
The report found that since May 2007 trains have struck tools or equipment associated with engineering works on 23 occasions.
RAIB has made four recommendations to Network Rail following the investigation. These include ensuring that safety documentation for staff is checked by someone other than its author, and that management at Saltley infrastructure maintenance delivery unit − which was responsible for the work − is improved.
Network Rail must also review rules governing work being undertaken by on-track plant, such as the road rail vehicle, when it is adjacent to lines that are open to trains. This includes reviewing how often checks for compliance with Network Rail’s maintenance rules are undertaken.