Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 12:17 UK

Company warned on bridge erosion

rail line damage
A train driver stopped his engine just before the line collapsed

A scout leader has said he warned an Irish train company about erosion on a rail viaduct several days before part of it collapsed.

Ivan Barratt takes scouts canoeing two to three times a week around the Broadmeadow Estuary Rail viaduct.

Mr Barrat said he had noticed serious erosion on the structure on 14 August and phoned to warn Iarnród Éireann.

However, on Friday 21 August a 20-metre section of the Dublin to Belfast railway line collapsed into the water.

The company said an inspection found the damage was cosmetic, rather than structural.

However, Mr Barratt, who said he had noticed worsening erosion on it over a period of several months, said it should have been evident there was a problem.

"I suspect if it was just looking down from the rails (the examination), looking down from above, everything would appear normal.

"But I think if it was a case of getting into a boat of some sort and going out to inspect the arch itself - and it would need to have been when the tide was at the correct height - then it would have been quite evident that there was a problem," he said.

"For somebody without any engineering qualifications it was evident there was a problem, I'm quite sure a qualified engineer inspecting should have recognised straight off."

Mr Barratt said swift action could have prevented the collapse.

"Had action been taken immediately during the week, the trains been stopped and some sort of temporary filling put in to stop further erosion taking place, then the bridge might not have collapsed at any stage," he said.

"They might have been able to correct the thing with fairly simple work and avoid this thing being out of commission for three to six months or whatever it's going to be to get it sorted out."

Last week, a train driver spotted subsidence on the line while his train crossed the viaduct.

He managed to reach Malahide Station and report the incident, but a section of the line collapsed into the water a short time later.

Iarnród Éireann said the line collapse could have resulted in tragedy.

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