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Historic Railway Disasters
30 Jan 98

UK: Poor training led to derailment

Failings in staff training were the underlying cause of a derailment to a freight train according to a report from Britain's Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The accident occurred on 27 December 1997 at Barry Island, South Wales. The train, operated by EWS (English Welsh and Scottish Railways) was hauling nine tankers each containing 60 tonnes of the flammable, liquified gas Vinyl Chloride Monomer. It had reached Cadoxton, Barry Docks when a railway shunter incorrectly operated a points lever moving the points as the last wagon passed over them. This wagon fell on its side and was dragged along for a short distance.

As a precautionary measure, around 1000 people being evacuated from their homes.

As a result of its investigations, the HSE identified weaknesses in training and competency of staff and found that emergency arrangements were not fully co-ordinated by all railway companies.

The HSE has recommended that co-operation between Railtrack, EWS and dangerous goods consignors should be improved to ensure that there is proper co-ordination of safety systems and procedures for dealing with emergencies. Two further recommendations have been made regarding training and supervision of employees involved in the movement of dangerous goods and that Railtrack and EWS should review the risk where hand operated points exist on lines where dangerous goods are carried. The full text of the recommendations is reproduced below.

  1. There should be improved co-operation between Railtrack, English Welsh and Scottish Railway and dangerous goods consignors, in order to ensure that there is proper co-ordination of their respective safety systems and procedures for dealing with rail dangerous goods emergencies. The detail and extent of such systems and procedures should relate to the degree of risk involved, with special attention given to bulk flows of major hazard dangerous goods.
  2. Railtrack and English Welsh and Scottish Railway should identify all locations where hand points exist on dangerous goods freight lines and conduct a review to consider the risk of mishandling, the likely consequences of a derailment and what reasonably practicable measures may be taken to reduce the risks.
  3. Railtrack and English Welsh & Scottish Railway should review the information, instruction, training and supervision of all their employees who are involved both with the movement of dangerous goods trains and in managing dangerous goods incidents. The review should also examine the systems for assessing whether such employees are fully competent and fit to carry out their duties. Additionally, where first-response site staff cover an area through which there are significant flows of a particular substance, then training should be given on the specific hazards of this product.
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Health and Safety Executive

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