Page last updated at 15:11 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 16:11 UK

Rail crash report blames checks

Grayrigg crash
The Pendolino train was travelling to Glasgow from London

Track maintenance failures contributed to a train crash in Cumbria which left one person dead and dozens injured, a report has concluded.

Margaret Masson, 84, of Glasgow, died and 82 people were hurt when a Virgin West Coast Pendolino train derailed at 95mph near Grayrigg in February 2007.

A Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report published on Thursday made 29 safety recommendations.

Three men were arrested after the crash. Two have since been cleared.

The 255-page report said rail infrastructure company Network Rail (NR) incorrectly set up points that failed and were the ultimate cause of the derailment.

The tragedy at Grayrigg was caused by the failure of our infrastructure, something we were devastated to discover.
Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher

NR had an "incomplete understanding" of the design, maintenance and inspection of the stretcher bars used in the points, the RAIB said.

The organisation also failed to carry out a planned track inspection of the points five days before the fatal crash.

The RAIB said that the immediate cause of the derailment was the deterioration of the points at Lambrigg through a combination of failures of the points' three stretcher bars, the lock stretcher bar, and their fastening.

The report said that in the 35 years since the design of points used at Lambrigg was introduced there had been no previous catastrophic accident associated with the type of stretcher bars used in the design.

Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: "The tragedy at Grayrigg was caused by the failure of our infrastructure, something we were devastated to discover.

"We immediately accepted responsibility for the accident and once again apologise today to Mrs Masson's family and all those affected.

Grayrigg crash
One woman died and dozens were injured in the crash

"Following a comprehensive and detailed industry investigation we made immediate changes to our maintenance regime.

"Travel by rail is the safest form of travel and despite Grayrigg, the railways are safer than ever before. It is important that the rail industry seeks ways to make it safer still and this report should help that process."

Local MP Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat member for Westmorland & Lonsdale, is calling for a public inquiry into wider rail safety.

He said: "Quite properly, this RAIB report only looked at the Grayrigg derailment.

"However, naturally, all of us will be drawing comparisons with other points-related tragedies, especially Potters Bar.

"The conclusions of this report only underline the need for a full public inquiry to look at wider safety issues."

Twenty-one of 29 RAIB safety recommendations are directed at Network Rail and include measures to tackle staff fatigue.

The RAIB said a report into the 2002 Potters Bar crash identified a need for NR to better understand the different designs of points used on the rail network.

The report said: "NR had accepted the value of such an approach but did not consider its application to existing points with non-adjustable stretcher bars to be a priority."

The report said Virgin's Pendolino train "performed" better than had been seen with earlier designs of trains in previous accidents.

'Systematic failings'

However, it went on to say safety could be improved by better designed seat mountings and overhead lighting panels.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon welcomed the report and said a decision on an inquest into the Potters Bar tragedy would be taken in the New Year.

The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union renewed its call for a joint public inquiry into the Grayrigg and Potters Bar derailments.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "It is now abundantly clear that systematic management failings, lack of resources and the fragmented contract culture still prevalent on the railway all played their part in the complex of causes of the Grayrigg derailment.

"For NR to attempt, as it did, to point the finger of blame at individuals it managed so poorly was outrageous, and for police to keep two of our members under suspicion of manslaughter for nearly a year without a shred of evidence demands an apology."

Graphic showing how rail points work




SEE ALSO
Grayrigg death charges dropped
17 Oct 08 |  England
MP calls for Grayrigg inquiry
15 Oct 08 |  England
Network Rail ordered to improve
20 Dec 07 |  Cumbria
Crash driver returns to scene
03 Oct 07 |  England

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Leigh Today Incorrect points setting blamed for train derailment - 25 hrs ago
Glasgow Evening Times Network Rail blamed for death of Glasgow woman - 32 hrs ago
Pendle Today Incorrect points setting blamed for train derailment Rail infrastructure company Network Rail (NR) incorrectly set up points that failed causing last year's Cumbria train derailment, an official accident report has said. - 32 hrs ago
Birmingham Post Points blamed over fatal rail crash - 32 hrs ago
Lancashire Evening Post Train death crash caused by incorrect points setting - 35 hrs ago



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