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Train Derailment Blamed on Worn Track

Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) Logo & ScotRail TrainThe maintenance and inspection process that Network Rail has in place is being put into question following a stretch of track near Waverley station in Edinburgh being found ‘heavily worn,’ according to a preliminary report from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB). The government agency report into the derailment of a ScotRail train, which occurred on July 27, blames the incident on an eroded switch rail that forced the train from the tracks.

Several trains that serve the rail hub were severely disrupted for more than two days after the empty train derailed just before 6pm – during rush hour in the evening. The train didn’t crash on its side, but the front wheels of the rear carriage were off the rails near Princes Street Gardens. The driver and conductor weren’t injured in the incident, and the RAIB report cleared the driver and signalling system of causing the derailment. The preliminary examination found that the incident happened due to the rims of the wheels climbing over the left-hand switch rail at points 167B, which the agency found very worn.

It also said that the train was moving at 19mph when it derailed. The rims of the wheels on the train are designed to keep them on the tracks, but the wheels climbed over the line and toward the left at facing points 167B. The points were positioned for the train to travel the right-hand route. After derailing, the train continued moving for about 90 metres before stopping – which caused damage to the track and underside of the train.

Network Rail, the report continued, examined the other switch rails around the area and didn’t find anymore so severely worn. An ongoing investigation will include the examination of the train’s condition as well as that of the track in order to determine the mechanism of the derailment. The RAIB will review the history of the points and work carried out on them prior to the incident. It will also look into the fitness and competence of maintenance staff and the resourcing and organisation of infrastructure maintenance in the Scottish capital.

MSP Patrick Harvie, the transport spokesman for Scottish Greens and former convener for the transport committee in Holyrood, says that it’s worrisome that this hasn’t been noticed before in routine inspections, which should be happening – especially on a section of the network this busy. Most customers would presume the tracks and points are inspected regularly, and he is concerned the issue hasn’t been picked up before this incident.

A Network Rail spokesman said that the company is working with the RAIB to probe the accident. They are also reviewing maintenance work conducted on this set of points prior to the incident. All the other points around the area have been checked and are in good condition, he added.

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