March 12, 2018 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Monday Accidents & Lessons Learned: When a Disruption Potentially Saves Lives

Early news of an incident often does not convey the complexity behind the incident. Granted, many facts are not initially available. On Tuesday, January 24, 2017, a Network Rail freight train derailed in southeast London between Lewisham and Hither Green just before 6:00 am, with the rear two wagons of the one-kilometer-long train off the tracks. Soon after, the Southeastern network sent a tweet to report the accident, alerting passengers that, “All services through the area will be disrupted, with some services suspended.” Then came the advice, “Disruption is expected to last all day. Please make sure you check before travelling.” While southeastern passengers were venting their frustrations on Twitter, a team of engineers was at the site by 6:15 am, according to Network Rail. At the scene, the engineers observed that no passengers were aboard and that no one was injured. They also noted a damaged track and the spillage of a payload of sand.

The newly laid track at Courthill Loop South Junction was constructed of separate panels of switch and crossing track, with most of the panels arriving to the site preassembled. Bearer ties, or mechanical connectors, joined the rail supports. The February 2018 report from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), including five recommendations, noted that follow-up engineering work took place the weekend after the new track was laid, and the derailment occurred the next day. Further inspection found the incident to be caused by a significant track twist and other contributing factors. Repair disrupted commuters for days as round-the-clock engineers accomplished a complete rebuild of a 50-meter railway stretch and employed cranes to lift the overturned wagons. Now factor in time, business, resources saved—in addition to lives that are often spared—when TapRooT® advanced root cause analysis is used to proactively reach solutions.

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