November 19, 2012 | Mark Paradies

Monday Accident & Lessons Learned: Lessons from a Railroad Maintenance Near-Miss

Here’s a press release from the UK Rail Accident Investigation Branch about a railroad maintenance near-miss…

On Sunday 28 October 2012 a possession was taken over a 15 mile length of railway line to enable maintenance between Stirling station and Blackford signal box, in Scotland. A possession is an arrangement whereby the line is closed to normal rail traffic to allow engineering staff to carry out works. The possession was pre-planned to enable a variety of maintenance tasks to be carried out at various locations between Stirling and Greenloaning. It started after the last train on Saturday night and finished before the first on Sunday morning.

The maintenance work activities were grouped into work sites, each of which was controlled by an engineering supervisor. One such work site was to the north of Dunblane and covered a one mile (1.6 km) stretch of the route. Within this work site a road-rail excavator, trailer and seven staff were engaged in drainage work on the up line (the line that carries trains from Perth towards Stirling).

When the drainage work was complete the engineering supervisor for the work site tried to contact the person in charge of the possession to inform him that the road-rail vehicle and the staff were clear of the line. The engineering supervisor was unable to contact the person in charge of the possession and so called the signaller at Blackford. The signaller reported that the person in charge of the possession had given it up an hour earlier and the line had been open to traffic since then. The work site had been active during this time with a road-rail vehicle and seven staff working on or near to the line with no protection from trains. No accident occurred because no trains were scheduled at the time. However, there were no measures in place to prevent an engineering train or on-track machine from being routed towards the work site.

The RAIB’s investigation will identify the sequence of events that led to the possession being given up while a group of staff and machinery were still working on the line. It will also consider the planning and management of the possession, the impact of late changes to the arrangements, and the factors that may have influenced the actions of those involved.

The RAIB’s investigation is independent of any investigations by the safety authority (the Office of Rail Regulation).

The RAIB will report on its findings at the conclusion of its investigation. This will be published on the RAIB website.

What are the lessons we can learn even before the investigation is complete? Leave your commnet below by clicking on the “Comment” link.

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