Catalogue of errors led to collapse
A combination of 13 factors led to the collapse of a viaduct on one of the country's busiest rail lines, an accident report has revealed.
A catalogue of engineering and human errors which continued over several years were uncovered by the Railway Accident Investigation Unit (RAIU).
It found workmen were not property trained to assess the safety of the bridge, with investigators specifically highlighting the failure of an engineer to spot defects on the Malahide Viaduct three days before the accident, which happened almost a year ago.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said the report detailed a worrying account of the inadequate maintenance and inspection regime in Iarnrod Eireann (IE) in recent years which failed to safeguard the viaduct structure from the impact of scour and erosion.
"It sets out a series of recommendations addressed to IE in areas such as future inspection standards and their implementation, training of key personnel, risk assessment of railway structures and the provision of physical and flood protection for structures at high risk," said Mr Demspsey.
"I understand from the report and from updates by IE that significant changes have now taken place to meet the short-comings identified and to ensure that there is no repetition of this event."
Rail chiefs had been warned about the state of the viaduct by the Malahide Sea Scouts days before the incident on August 21 last year after a canoeist saw a stone washed away. A passenger had even photographed a three-metre wide whirlpool on the edge of the viaduct half an hour before it collapsed.
But Iarnrod Eireann maintained an engineer who checked the viaduct over the Broadmeadow estuary, north Dublin, only looked at the piers and not underwater foundations being eroded.
Investigators found Iarnrod Eireann failed to take action as far back as 2006 when an independent inspection identified scouring had started at the base and reported the rock armour weir was "too light for the job". The track had also not been identified as a high-risk structure during an inspection in 2006 while there was a "loss of corporate memory" as engineers left their posts over the years without passing on vital information to staff.
In a statement Iarnrod Eireann said it accepted the findings of the RAIU and of an earlier report by the Railway Safety Commission (RSC). A spokesman said following the accident, a programme of major reform began across all aspects of the safety management of infrastructure.