Final Stonehaven report outlines UK rail network resilience improvements

Posted: 19 March 2021 | | No comments yet

The report, commissioned by the UK’s Transport Secretary immediately after the Stonehaven incident, includes a range of recommendations to further safeguard the UK’s railways from extreme weather.

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The UK government has published Network Rail’s final report on how the resilience of the UK’s rail network can be improved, in light of the Stonehaven tragedy in 2020.

The report was commissioned by the UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, immediately after the incident, in which three people died when a passenger train hit a landslip and derailed while travelling through bad weather near Carmont, Aberdeenshire.

The document is informed by the work of two independent taskforces – one which looks at weather conditions and the other at earthworks management – and includes a range of recommendations to further safeguard railways from extreme weather.

Network Rail has already started implementing some of these recommendations, building on an acceleration of works and investment in the resilience of the UK’s railways over the last decade.

Transport Secretary for the UK, Grant Shapps, said: “The accident at Stonehaven in August 2020 was devastating, and my thoughts remain with the families of Brett McCullough, Donald Dinnie and Christopher Stuchbury, who tragically lost their lives.”

“We must do everything that we can to keep our railways safe, and I immediately commissioned this report so that lessons would be learnt without delay. These findings will inform our work as we push ahead with measures to make our railway more resilient in the future and less vulnerable to sudden tragedies like that near Stonehaven.”

The UK’s Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “Safety is our absolute priority, which is why we have instructed Network Rail to publish regular updates on how it will deliver these recommendations to give passengers confidence. These reports underline the importance of investing in our railway, to keep passengers and staff safe, both now and in the future.”

Between 2019 and 2024, Network Rail will make a record investment of £1.3 billion in strengthening the railway’s resilience to extreme weather.

Network Rail’s operations, maintenance and renewals budgets continue to be ring-fenced, with the UK government’s Spending Review committing over £40 billion as part of efforts to increase investment in rail infrastructure.

The final Stonehaven report examines all available evidence about the tragedy, the immediate steps taken afterwards and the current challenges of managing 200,000 earthwork sites over 20,000 miles of track across the UK.

Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s Safety and Engineering Director, said: “The UK’s railway is one of the safest in Europe, but something went tragically wrong at Stonehaven in the summer of 2020, and our thoughts remain with the families and friends of Brett McCullough, Donald Dinnie and Christopher Stuchbury.”

“Heavy rain caused ground slips on many occasions across the entire network in 2020. Although tragic accidents are, thankfully, incredibly rare and none other than Stonehaven caused injuries, it is clear that extreme weather presents a significant challenge to the way that we safely and reliably manage railway infrastructure,” he added.

Martin continued: “We do a vast amount to tackle the effects of climate change already, but there is more to do. We established two independent, expert taskforces, led by world-class specialists to investigate the problems that we face and, crucially, to guide us as we make substantial improvements. We will carefully consider every single recommendation and develop a science-backed improvement plan to target available money and technology in the best possible way. This is a real breakthrough.”

The document builds upon the Resilience of Rail Infrastructure interim report, which was also commissioned by the Transport Secretary immediately after the Stonehaven incident and published in September 2020.

Neither the final nor interim reports pre-empt the outcome of the independent investigation by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) into the Stonehaven incident. RAIB is due to publish its findings in late 2021.