Potentially Fatal Gap in Rail Line Near York Exposed.
12:41pm 3rd December 2012
Rail Union RMT today released a picture which they say shows 5 inches of rail head crumbled away to nothing leaving what they call a potentially lethal gap in the track on the InterCity East Coast Mainline at Colton Junction just south of York where normal running speeds at 125mph. The picture was taken at the beginning of last week.
The original crack had been identified, say the RMT on inspection and painted blue to mark it down for repair or replacement. However, they add that due to cuts it took four days to replace in which time they say a crack had become a five inch gap, leaving trains, passengers and staff at risk of a serious and potentially lethal incident. The RMT say a train could have derailed, jumped the tracks and collided with an on-coming service.
The RMT says it understands that there is massive pressure to keep the East Coast Main Line running from the government and the department of transport as they look to re-privatise the service. They add that although train running speeds were reduced to 90 miles an hour over the missing track, RMT says that that is a wholly inadequate response with drivers reporting that they have concerns about rough riding and bangs underneath trains in the same area.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:
"This shocking picture highlights the reality on Britain's railways today, staffing and inspections have been cuts in the dash to save money and there is massive pressure right from the top of Government to keep services running at all costs regardless of the potential human cost.
"This is exactly the same set of poisonous conditions that lead us to the Hatfield disaster and as this picture shows we are dicing with death and risking another major rail tragedy. RMT is demanding action before it is too late.
"For a kick off we want all cuts to staffing, maintenance and renewals reversed and all track works brought back in house rather than subbed-out to contractors. The current contractor staff should be transferred over to direct Network Rail employment. We also want the pressure from the centre to run services at any costs lifted to enable safety-critical works to take place immediately.
"Finally, we want an end to the further cuts proposed by the Government in its McNulty Rail Review before we end up with another rail tragedy on Britain's tracks with ministers paraded on our screens with blood on their hands."
Network Rail responded to the RMT's statement:
Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail, responded: “As soon as we knew about the crack in this rail we stopped all trains and rectified the problem. This was managed within all safety standards and was in no way affected by changes to staffing levels.
“A minor defect in the rail – not a crack - was picked up by our monitoring train on 12 November. A rail replacement was scheduled for 9 December and the defect was maintained on 21 November. On 21 November there was no crack in the rail. Weekly inspections of this defect were completed. This is fully compliant with best practice and industry standards.
“The rail deteriorated which was identified by a train driver on the neighbouring line at 12.01 on Wednesday 28 November. We immediately stopped all trains from travelling over the fault and the track was replaced by 19.37 that evening. Safety issues will never be compromised in the name of managing costs.”
Network Rail say that as this incident illustrates, all reports from drivers are investigated and action taken as appropriate.
They add that the speed restriction referred to by the RMT was not on this section of line and has no relation to this fault.
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