Our ref: HSR/2/1
Head Office Circular: NP/153/22
21st July 2022
To: The Secretary
On 10th March 2022, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) published its report into the Carmont Rail tragedy: the derailment of a passenger train at Carmont, Aberdeenshire on 12th August 2020 which killed RMT member conductor Donald Dinnie, ASLEF member driver Brett McCullough and a passenger Christopher Stuchbury, as well as injuring six passengers.
The reports headline findings were that the derailment was caused by the failure of Carillion to install the drainage system in accordance with the design, meaning that it was unable to safely accommodate the flow of surface water, additionally, Network Rail (NR) failures include:
- their probably not being aware that the 2011/12 drain was significantly different from that intended by the designer
- their ineffective processes to ensure managed transfer of safety related information from construction to infrastructure manager
- the failure of NR/Carillion to learn from a previous incident when water flow led to slight erosion to the gravel surface of the new drainage trench before the works were completed
In relation to railway operations, RAIB found that:
- NR did not have suitable arrangements in place to allow for additional operational mitigations in case of extreme rainfall
- although route control staff were aware of multiple safety related events caused by heavy rain, they were not required to restrict the speed of train T108 northwards from Carmont to Stonehaven
- the signaler and driver were not required to, and consequently did not, reduce the speed of train T108 to below normally permitted speed.
Following an instruction to consider what the union’s detailed response should be, your National Executive Committee (NEC) met on 19th July where it noted and adopted the following report from its Health and Safety sub-committee:
“RMT welcomes the RAIB report a “Derailment of a passenger train at Carmont, Aberdeenshire, 12 August 2020” and its recommendations. However, the role of RAIB is limited - “its purpose it to improve railway safety by independently investigating accidents to improve railway safety”. In addition to the 20 recommendations in the RAIB Carmont report what is needed to avoid another Carmont are political solutions:
Necessary investment to ensure rail safety:
- RMT is concerned that not all the RAIB recommendations will become actions. For example, RMT welcomes RAIB recommendation 2 which states the actions NR should take to identify where new work has not been incorporated into appropriate maintenance processes (currently Ellipse and MSTs - Maintenance Scheduled Tasks). We are concerned that NR will not do this - as RMT has been notified that NR want to slash MSTs by 50%.
- If we are to avoid another accident more track maintenance staff are required. RAIB recommendation 3 is for NR to use learning from events such as Carmont to improve the design of drainage systems. RAIB should have included a recommendation from NR’s ‘Review of Earthworks Management’ report, the Executive Summary of which states:
“We recommend that consideration is given to undertaking drainage inspections with sufficient and professionally qualified competent staff…rather than the current arrangement where the NR Maintenance off-track team is often overloaded with inspections of drainage systems.”
“Consideration should also be given to having dedicated drainage maintenance teams across all Routes, rather than drainage only being one of the activities for which Off Track Section manager are responsible”.
- In relation to RAIB recommendations 4 and 5 that relate to evaluating the way that examinations of mixed cuttings are conducted - and of incomplete examinations not being reported to NR - RMT are calling for an immediate halt to plans by NR to cut thousands of safety critical maintenance jobs – more inspections are needed rather than less. Inspection and maintenance should be undertaken exclusively by NR maintenance workers, not contractors– we want a properly trained and familiarised workforce.
- RAIB recognises the impact climate change is having in causing more extreme weather events and the impact this has on earthworks. It states (in recommendation 6) that NR should:
“review and where necessary improve its processes for mitigating rainfall-related threats to the integrity of its earthworks and drainage infrastructure which could potentially affect the safe operation of trains”.
- RMT calls for designated weather desks (such as NR has in Scotland) which are staffed 24/7 by meteorologists employed by NR and whose job it is to analyse weather-related information and are in touch with the Met Office – which can give highly accurate weather forecasts – to be rolled out UK-wide, if this is not already the case and the numbers increased if it is the case.
- Rail systems in Scotland - rail renewals, drainage works – money will be ring fenced and RMT will demand to make sure that this happens. But while doing the right thing in one direction, but not doing it in another, it is likely to have an impact on other budgets.
- Recommendation 10, ours is a Victorian railway, as soon a digger goes in there are problems. To assist in the exec summary of the ‘Review of Earthworks Management’ report must be considered, which is that:
“Vegetation management needs to balance the negative impacts of vegetation…… against its positive impacts” Trees should be cut back on land adjacent to the railway infrastructure rather than cut down.
“Vegetation should be treated as asset and the railway system regarded as a wildlife corridor”.
- RMT welcomes recommendations 7 and 8 of the report, which is for route control staff to contribute to the safe operation of the railway and for NR to review its arrangements for providing training, learning and professional training for these staff. However there needs to be recognition that staff closer to the job must have appropriate autonomy to make decisions, without being worried about seniors - who are often governed by budgetary constraints - overruling them.
- It is clearly apparent that NR intends introducing various new technology measures for inspection and assessment of railway infrastructure and whilst RMT supports all means of ensuring railway infrastructure safety and integrity, we firmly believe experienced eyes and ears inspecting the infrastructure is the most hands-on and reliable method of countering any potential failures and avoiding delays and/or potential incidents. Technology has its place in the full suite of safety measures, although RMT’s position remains one of boots on ballast being more effective than a drone in the air.
We need a unified railway:
- RAIB report recommendation one explains that there were systemic and structural failures in safety caused by fragmentation, poor communication and management and also the failure of the now defunct contactor Carillion, and that in relation to this NR should:
“review its contractual and project management arrangements”
This recommendation is very limited – it is about NR better managing its contractual and project management arrangements. However, to ensure a safe railway, this work must be bought in-house, with adequate funding to ensure it works effectively - and in the interim for access to records if a contractor goes into administration. It is a disgrace that although the failure of sub-contractor Carillion was one of the key causes of the tragedy, that the fact that the company is now defunct means those responsible may not properly be held to account.
- Leaving train companies to improve rolling stock (Recommendations 14 and 16) to a standard that it can withstand accidents such as Carmont is a conflict of interests - as they are profit-driven. They must be bought in-house.
In relation to RAIB report learning point:
“Railway staff are reminded that, if available and they are trained to use it, GSM-R radio is normally the most appropriate way to communicate urgent safety information to signallers”.
We note that GSM-R radios do not always work. These are localised depending on the coverage area, and sometimes can follow trains, sometimes cannot.
In summary (and Recommendation 9 relates which is about ensuring NR learning lessons from Carmont and previous events), we are concerned that NR do not learn lessons. They break every rule in rule book during RMT industrial action and then cover-up. Lessons need to be learnt and recommendations actually implemented.
The General Secretary is instructed to:
- write to RAIB and Network Rail with our report
- publicise our report to members and outside bodies
- change the name of this file to “Carmont”
Branches and Regional Councils to be advised.”
I am acting in line with these instructions. Please bring the contents of this circular and the attached document to the attention of relevant members.