How hero driver saved packed train from derailment disaster
A 'golf special' train that was carrying 150 passengers to the Irish Open at Portrush last year was left suspended over a large hole for 12 minutes after floods washed the embankment away.
According to a report by the Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB), the quick thinking of the driver probably prevented a derailment after he reversed the train off the unsupported track.
It was nearly seven weeks after the incident on June 28 last year that the RAIB learned from an anonymous tip-off that the front of a train had run into the washout.
Northern Ireland Railways launched a formal investigation into the incident, having only carried out a technical investigation into what had happened. NIR later appointed an internal auditor to carry out a separate investigation into the notification of the incident to statutory authorities.
In its report, RAIB described what had happened after 150 tonnes of embankment near Lisburn were washed away by rain at around 7.06am on June 28, 2012, saying: "The driver applied the emergency brake... but was unable to stop the train before the leading bogie (undercarriage) ran over the unsupported rails at the washout. It came to a stand with the bogies of the leading vehicle either side of the washout. The train did not derail and... reversed away. There were no injuries."
The train was travelling at 24mph when it ran over the 10-metre stretch of track that had been washed away by torrential rain. The engine and a carriage crossed the drop, but most other passengers were in the other carriages which didn't reach the hole.
The report said NIR had no procedures in place to guide on-call staff about what to do in the event of heavy rainfall. Because of the delays in investigating the incident, evidence was not properly collected and the black box data recorder was overwritten.
The RAIB investigation found that the incident was caused by heavy rainfall and a system of culverts that couldn't cope with the water flows generated.
RAIB has called for a review of earthworks and structures; developing procedures to maintain line safety during adverse conditions; improving safety critical communications; weed control, and improvements to accident investigation procedures.
NIR was supposed to inform RAIB, DRD and the Health and Safety Executive about the incident and did so – but in all cases failed to mention the involvement of passengers.
Last night a spokesperson for Translink said: "Drainage on adjacent land was not adequate to cope with heavy rainfall and the Rivers Agency did not consider there was a high risk of flooding.
"Translink accepts the report's recommendations; indeed many are already complete or well underway to completion."
Causes of the incident:
* Heavy rainfall in the area during the previous evening
* A system of culverts at and downstream of the washout could not cope with the water flows generated by the rainfall, causing localised flooding
* The embankment could not withstand the differential water levels that built up across it
* The train was sent on to Antrim branch line without any additional precautions, despite the heavy rainfall
* The driver was unable to see the washout in time to stop the train before it