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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 20:30 GMT 21:30 UK
Train crash 'avoidable'
Train was derailed by boulder on track
A report into a train crash in County Londonderry has concluded that if the driver had received a warning one minute earlier, the accident could have been avoided.

Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate has been investigating the accident which happened at Downhill near Castlerock on 4 June 2002.

The Londonderry to Belfast train was derailed and six people were injured when boulders from a nearby cliff ended up on the line.

It had been claimed that the crash was the result of a series of unlikely events but in his report, the Railways Inspector concluded that, in fact, the rock falls from the cliff at Downhill could have been foreseen.

The injured, including the driver, were treated in hospital after the incident.

The driver, who suffered leg wounds, was the most seriously injured.

Twenty-two passengers and two crew were on board the three carriages at the time of the crash.

The report concludes that rock falls from the cliffs at Downhill were foreseeable
Gerald Kerr
Railway Inspectorate

On Wednesday, Gerald Kerr of Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate, found there were a number of management deficiencies in Northern Ireland Railways which were contributory factors in the accident.

He also reported the design of the 25-year-old train was a contributing factor in the seriousness of the derailment and to the injury to the driver.

The report also found the police, the Department of Regional Development and Translink could have dealt with the accident better.

Mr Kerr said the risk of a rock falling from the Downhill Slope and resulting in a derailment, either directly or indirectly, had not been properly evaluated by NIR prior to the derailment.

Further incidents of rock fall will occur in the Downhill area and present a risk of injury particularly to residents, and to a lesser extent, road and rail users, he added.

The report also found that if NIR had received the information in the order of one minute earlier it is likely the accident could have been prevented.

Railway inspector Gerald Kerr
Railway inspector Gerald Kerr: Management deficiencies raised
Mr Kerr said the cliffs should be regularly checked in the future for signs of danger.

"The report concludes that rock falls from the cliffs at Downhill were foreseeable and that further rock fall will occur in the future which will pose a risk to residents and to a lesser extent road and rail users," Mr Kerr said.

"It is clear that, notwithstanding the injuries sustained in this derailment it was only by chance that a much more serious incident did not occur.

"Whilst the risk of rock fall at Downhill remains I urge the various parties to work together and take effective action to reduce the risks of a further rock fall event causing injury," said Mr Kerr.

I don't accept we were complacent. The rock slope was assessed against the industry standards and no action was deemed necessary
Ciaran Rogan
Translink spokesman
Mr Kerr also urged the PSNI to urgently identify an unexplained technical fault, which led to their systems failing to record the details and timings of the two emergency calls made by an eyewitness.

He said that consequently he was unable to confirm that the information was transmitted to NIR from PSNI in a prompt fashion.

Translink spokesman Ciaran Rogan said he welcomed the report.

"The report concludes that this incident occured as the result of many factors which combined over a very short period of time.

"Some of them (were) unforseeable, some of them possibly improbable."

He said Translink engineers who had assessed the sloping within standards applicable in Great Britain had concluded that no action was necessary.

"I don't accept we were complacent. The rock slope was assessed against the industry standards and no action was deemed necessary," he said.

"Independent experts said that the incident was, and I quote, in practical terms 'unforeseeable'. Now it happened.

"The inspector has made recommendations as regards altering the assessment procedures for things like rock slopes and we sign up fully to implementing those recommendations."

BBC NI environment correspondent Mike McKimm
"The service still runs, but at a slow speed past the cliffs and only after someone has walked ahead to check the track first"

Minister visits rail crash scene
07 Jun 02  |  Northern Ireland
Train derailment operation continues
05 Jun 02  |  Northern Ireland
Several injured as train derails
04 Jun 02  |  Northern Ireland

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