ORR slams Network Rail over viaduct safety failings


Network Rail has been fined £10,000 for allowing trains to travel at more than 100mph over a badly storm-damaged viaduct.

The infrastructure operator was prosecuted by Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service following an investigation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

Lamington Viaduct. Picture courtesy of the ORR

It was fined £10,000 by Lanark Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to an offence under health and safety law.

The ORR said that although Lamington Viaduct in South Lanarkshire was badly damaged after severe storms in late 2015, Network Rail allowed several trains to cross the viaduct before realising it had been damaged and eventually closed the line for seven weeks for major repair works.

Ian Prosser CBE, HM chief inspector of railways at the ORR, said: ‘We welcome this outcome by the Crown Office. Our investigation revealed that Network Rail staff were unaware that they held safety critical duties under Network Rail’s processes to manage infrastructure during extreme weather.

‘The viaduct was on Network Rail’s list of high risk structures vulnerable to being washed away by moving water, yet despite this being a known issue, severe damage went unrecognised because Network Rail failed to implement its own procedures which would have meant no passenger trains should have passed over the viaduct.

‘This verdict should be a reminder to Network Rail, as it progresses plans led by its two new task forces, that it must continue to acknowledge and act to guard against the serious impact of severe weather on infrastructure.’

A Network Rail spokesperson said: 'We fell short of the standards expected of us in our response at Lamington and we immediately made significant changes to our management of scour-risks in Scotland as a result of this incident.

'We invest heavily each year in projects designed to minimise the impact of river flow on vulnerable structures and we have also deployed telemetry equipment at high-risk bridges to help improve early identification of potential issues.

'We are determined to better understand how our weather can affect our railway and have launched two taskforces, led by independent experts, as part of our long-term response to climate change.'

In July the rail regulator said Network Rail’s plans to increase resilience are not keeping up with severe weather events.

In August three people died when a train derailed near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire following heavy rain.


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