RMT adverse weather warning

RMT adverse weather warning

20 January 2021

RMT Press Office:

RMT warns of terrifying consequences of adverse weather conditions for rail network.

As storm Christoph batters the county RMT General Secretary Mick Cash has today written an urgent letter to the Chief Executive of Network Rail, Andrew Haines, expressing concern that the railway does not have sufficient resilience to adverse weather conditions and this could have terrifying consequences for passengers and workers.

The warning came after reports last week of the collapse of part of the north east rail bridge close to the site of Stonehaven train tragedy.

In the letter RMT demands to know whether a UK wide rail register has been fully developed which identifies what areas of the railway since the Stonehaven tragedy are at risk, including landslip or flooding risk, and what are the threats to passengers and workers.

The union is also seeking urgent answers as to whether enhanced inspection and maintenance regimes are in place to protect rail resilience and if safety and efficiency are being compromised by budgetary and resource constraints and the use of sub-contractors.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said;

“Whilst rail workers have been battling in appalling conditions to keep rail services moving it is shocking that even after the Stonehaven tragedy Network Rail have not been able to identify with us what areas of the railway are at risk from adverse weather conditions and what steps are being taken to reduce that risk.

“Poor railway resilience and poor weather conditions are a toxic combination which could have terrifying consequences for passengers and workers. We are also deeply concerned that the necessary inspection and works regimes needed are being compromised by budget and resource constraints.

“Network Rail need to provide answers and action before we have another tragedy.”


Notes to editors 
A full copy of the letter to Network Rail is below 
Our Ref: HSR/2/1
20th January 2021
Andrew Haines
Chief Executive
Network Rail
By e-mail
Dear Andrew
With reference to the above, I write to you following media reports last week of the collapse of part of the north east rail bridge close to the site of Stonehaven train tragedy.
I am becoming increasingly concerned that the railway does not have sufficient resilience to adverse weather conditions having an effect on the railway infrastructure including earthworks, structures and the track. Any failure of these could have terrifying consequences for passengers and workers. 
You will be aware that as well as the tragedy at Stonehaven there have been a number of incidents across the country in recent years, so many that the Rail Accident Investigation Branch published a class report into the subject in 2014 and since then there have been a number of major incidents including Watford Tunnel and other incidents in Scotland. 
My officials have already been raising concerns with Alex Hynes in Scotland but the response has provided nowhere near enough information or clarity and I need to ask you some of the same questions again.  You will also appreciate that the poor resilience of the rail Network is also a UK wide question. Indeed, there are so many unanswered questions that I am concerned that Network Rail don’t know what the scale of the problem is or, if they do, they are not being open about the risks. Moreover I fear budgetary and resource constraints are preventing you from being more transparent. 
I would be grateful for your urgent response to the following questions; 
  • In the Interim Resilience of Rail Infrastructure report in September 2020 you announced the formation of task forces on the management of earthworks and on the use of weather data to assist in operational preparedness, yet since that time there has been little or no information. What feedback has there been in respect of the threat to the railway’s resilience?  
  • Has a risk register been fully developed with high, medium and low risk sites identified for potential landslip or flooding risks? It is shocking that this information is not yet available when we are well into the storm season. 
  • Are enhanced inspection and maintenance regimes in place at known areas of medium and high risk? How is drainage managed on the rail infrastructure and how is vegetation control and earthworks managed?  Is it work carried out by Network Rail staff or contractors or a combination of both? If it is carried out by sub-contractors what control measures are in place to ensure that this is safe and efficient and nothing is missed? How do the specifications and frequency of these maintenance inspections and regimes compare to those of 10 years ago.
  • I am concerned budgetary constraints may be impacting on UK wide rail resilience. How much was spent on drainage and vegetation control as well as earthworks over the last control period compared to this control period?  Have you started working on plans for control period 7 for drainage, earthworks and vegetation control?   How do you intend to maintain or improve safety in relation to earthworks and flooding if you have had funding stripped away from your budget and what is the impact of the £1 billion cut in enhancements?  
  • Is there any feedback from the findings contained within the Resilience of rail infrastructure report from September 1st 2020, in particular any updates on the questions that Network Rail asks itself at Annex A and Annexe B of the document – pages 26 27 and 28.
  • Had the areas in Scotland reported in the media during the weekend of 5/6th December 2020 as being affected by flooding and landslips been risk assessed yet and if so, were they deemed high, medium or low risk as potential landslip or flooding risks? 
  • Have the remedial actions identified in investigations into Lamington Viaduct on the West Coast Mainline in 2015 been put into place?
  • Was the area around the Carmont derailment site deemed as an area of concern prior to the derailment? 
I look forward to your urgent response. 
Yours sincerely
Mick Cash 
General Secretary

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Tagged with: Storm Christoph, Rail, Railway, Network Rail, Adverse Weather