March 24, 2011 | Mark Paradies

Press Release By The UK RAIB: Investigation into two safety incidents involving track maintenance staff between Clapham Junction and Earlsfield stations on 8 March 2011

The UK Rail Accident Investigation Branch issued the following press release:

The RAIB is carrying out an investigation into two incidents which occurred between Clapham Junction and Earlsfield stations on the morning of Tuesday 8 March 2011.  Both incidents involved gangs from Network Rail’s track maintenance depot at Wimbledon, and followed the restoration of train services on the main lines between Waterloo and Wimbledon after the lifting of an engineer’s possession.
The gangs were both involved in setting up a speed restriction following the earlier discovery of a rail defect during a routine ultrasonic examination of the rails.

The first gang left Clapham Junction station and went onto the track at about 05:25 hrs, believing they were still protected by the possession.  At 05:45 hrs a train formed of empty coaching stock which had left Clapham Yard, bound for Hampton Court, approached the members of the gang while they were still working on the track.  The site safety controller for the gang contacted the signaller and arranged for trains to be stopped to enable his gang to return safely to Clapham Junction.  He then advised the supervisor of the second gang that he had obtained a blockage for a period of 15 minutes.

The second gang went onto the track from a point between Clapham Junction and Earlsfield at about 06:00 hrs.  They walked to the site of the rail defect, where they intended to clamp the rail and erect marker boards.  At 06:08 hrs, the driver of a train formed of empty coaching stock on its way from Clapham Junction to Epsom sidings saw the members of the second gang and made an emergency brake application.  The train collided with an insulated shroud which was being used by the gang to protect them from the live conductor rail and came to a stand a few metres beyond the location where they had been working.

The investigation will seek to identify the reasons for the gangs working on the track without adequate protection, the processes used for carrying out unplanned work, the effectiveness of the communications between the parties involved and other factors which may have affected the incidents.

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

The RAIB will publish a report, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of its investigation.  This report will be available on the RAIB website.

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