Flood-risked parts of rail network to be inspected after train derailment

PA

Inspections are to be carried out across parts of the country’s rail network deemed at risk of flash flooding to avoid a repeat of Wednesday’s train derailment in Aberdeenshire.

Network Rail will inspect trackside slopes as part of a Government-ordered review after a landslip during heavy rain and flooding is suspected to have played a part in the incident near Stonehaven.

The move was announced as the family of Brett McCullough, who was one of three people to die in the derailment, paid tribute to the train driver.

With dozens of emergency services still working at the scene – in better weather conditions – further evidence of the damage caused by the derailment could be seen, with one burned carriage strewn down the bank.

Fragments of a carriage could also be seen under another part of the train beside what appeared to be a carriage upside down.

In a statement, they said: “Words cannot describe the utterly devastating effect of Brett’s death on his family and friends.

“We have lost a wonderful husband, father and son in the most awful of circumstances.

“Brett was the most decent and loving human being we have ever known and his passing leaves a huge void in all our lives.”

The train’s conductor Donald Dinnie and a passenger also died in the derailment with an inquiry into the causes of the crash launched by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.

Network Rail said it will use in-house engineers, specialist contractors and helicopter surveys to assess dozens of sites with “similar characteristics” to the stretch of railway near Stonehaven.

It will also work with meteorologists to strengthen the information it receives about flash flooding while its engineers are reviewing the remote monitoring of high-risk sites with motion sensors and CCTV to test whether it can be improved.

The measures are in response to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps ordering the rail infrastructure body to carry out an urgent resilience review of areas affected by recent poor weather, and issue a report this month.

The Cabinet minister, who travelled to Stonehaven on Thursday, has also requested a wider assessment of the impact of the weather on the entire rail network, resulting in an interim report by September 1 and a final analysis in the autumn.

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Network Rail boss Andrew Haines joined Mr Shapps in a helicopter survey of the site on Thursday.

Mr Haines insisted he would “not pre-empt the outcome of the investigation” but said “it is clear the weather was appalling and there were floods and landslips in the area”.

He also said: “I have asked my teams to put extra measures in place, from immediate, heightened inspections, to medium-term work with meteorologists to improve information and forecasting.

“Our network was designed for a temperate climate and it’s challenged when we get extremes such as storms and floods.

“We’re seeing this more and more and although we can address them on the ground with precautionary measures, we are acutely aware we need a long-term resolution and we had already secured additional funding and resources to help achieve this.

“Yesterday was a tragedy, a truly horrific event, and my thoughts remain with everyone affected.

“Understanding what happened is the key to making sure it never occurs again.”

Emergency services
Emergency services

A separate investigation will be carried out by Police Scotland, British Transport Police and rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson, who also visited the crash site on Thursday, said: “They (Network Rail) are well aware of our views about the need to make sure that we are taking forward the right types of mitigations that help to manage a challenge of these types of localised, intense weather events.

“I think one of the things we will see what comes from the investigation is whether the pace of that type of mitigation work needs to be stepped up.

“That’s not just a challenge across Scotland, it’s across the whole of the UK.”