Runaway Protection

Our Ref: HSR/2/1
Head Office Circular: NP/234/14
14th November 2014

The Secretary

Dear Colleague

Runaway Protection

On 1 November 2014 a group of trackworkers were moving 2 x 52ft pieces of rail for approximately a mile and a quarter on the line between Pantyffynnon Jcn and Gwaun-cae-Gurwen in Wales using two pairs of Ironmen. The Ironmen were being operated down a gradient which was up to 1 in 40, with the load for each pair being just short of 1 tonne. The rail head was contaminated with leaves and it was raining heavily at the time.

Both pairs of Ironmen experienced difficulties during braking; this resulted in them gaining speed to the point the operators could no longer control them. In attempting to prevent the Ironmen running away one of the operators of the first pair received a graze injury and another suffered from shock. The first pair ran away for approximately 5 miles crossing 5 level crossings. A team of trackworkers had to take emergency action to narrowly avoid being struck by the Ironmen to avoid serious injury or death. The second pair was brought to a halt at the first level crossing. Subsequent inspection of the brakes has shown them to be worn.

Following this incident Network Rail made no effort to alert the RMT of the incident RMT heard of the incident due to the vigilance of our representatives. Niether did the company take any steps to re-assure RMT of the steps they were taking to control the risks of Ironmen running away. Nor did the company issue a national safety bulletin even though this type of equipment is used nationally.

East Lancashire Branch submitted the following resolution to the General Grades Committee:

East Lancashire Branch expresses concern and dismay at delays in rolling out a new system of secondary protection for railway engineering worksites, notes that it is over ten years since the terrible events at Tebay in Cumbria where four of our members tragically lost their lives.
Expresses shock at recent reports of another runaway vehicle on the rail network this time in South Wales.

Calls on the General Grades Committee to urgently raise these unacceptable delays in rolling out a new system of secondary protection with Network Rail and to establish a timetable for the rolling out of this equipment and the implementation of this system across the network.

On giving consideration to this resolution the GGC carried the following Decision:

We note and fully agree with the sentiments expressed within from our East Lancashire Branch.

We further note that it was agreed previously with Network Rail that the roll out of the Vortok Secondary Warning device was supposedly to happen between June and September 2014.

It is disgraceful that our members’ lives are being put at risk from runaway vehicles.

There is a meeting planned at Preston on 17th December for a site inspection and discussion on Vortok.

The General Secretary is instructed to inform Network Rail of our continued disappointment of the delay and to point out that at this planned meeting a detailed factual timescale on the roll out will be presented by Network Rail.

The General Secretary is also instructed to link this file with Tebay (HSR/2/15)

Branches and Regional Councils to be advised.

I am acting in accordance with these instructions and will keep you informed of developments with this case.

Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.

Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary