BLAME for the the crash at Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire on Wednesday 12 August 2020, in which three people were killed, has been laid firmly at the door of Network Rail for failing to maintain the area around the track.
Train drivers union ASLEF welcomed an interim report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch into the Stonehaven crash, which claimed the lives of driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62 – and in which six other people were injured.
The RAIB exonerated the driver of the train and found that the accident, which cast a long shadow across Britain’s railway industry, was caused by ‘debris washed onto the track near Carmont, Aberdeenshire, following heavy rainfall.
‘The washout was caused by unusually heavy rain.
‘The subsequent derailment resulted in the death of three people, injuries to the six other people in the train and catastrophic damage.’
Kevin Lindsay, ASLEF’s organiser in Scotland, said: ‘Blame for the accident has been laid firmly at the door of Network Rail for failing to maintain the area around the track.
‘It was the landslip – the debris washed onto the track – which caused the train to derail, with the subsequent loss of life, injuries, and catastrophic consequences.
‘We are urging Network Rail to examine every mile of track for which it is responsible, to ensure something like this can never happen again.’
TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘The derailment at Carmont last year was a terrible tragedy and we must learn the lessons from it.
‘This interim report from the RAIB shows that staff in the Control Centre, MOM, asset inspectors and signallers had all done their jobs in the way instructed, but there are clearly questions left to be answered.
‘The situation that day was greatly exacerbated by the atrocious weather, caused by climate change.
‘It is essential that both Westminster and Holyrood governments address the causes and consequences of climate change, investing in greener economies and in the urgent repairs and upgrades we need to protect our railways against future flooding.
‘Nothing can bring back the driver, conductor and passenger who lost their lives that day. But we can, and we must, prevent such a tragedy occurring again.’
Following the Rail Accident Investigation Branch’s interim report on the tragedy at Carmont on 12th August 2020, where six vehicles of a passenger train derailed after striking a landslip, killing three and injuring six, RMT believes that the RAIB seems to be taking Network Rail’s commitments on expertise at face value.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash stated that: ‘The tragic loss of life and damage at Carmont sets out that there are clear deficiencies in Network Rail’s approach to the effects of severe weather and its effects on the ageing rail infrastructure.
‘Network Rail must learn from this incident and take the necessary steps to ensure that they are preventing incidents from happening.
‘That means a robust and regular inspection, maintenance and improvement programme that means our railway infrastructure is fit for a future where extreme weather may become more regular and more challenging.
‘We need a well-maintained railway that will need a hands-on approach to maintenance and improvements and not just leaving matters to predictions and forecasts.
‘Rail resilience issues are a serious concern to RMT and we have tried to engage with Network Rail in Scotland in a proactive manner to ensure the safety of the travelling public and railway staff.’
Meanwhile, responding to the news that the government is set to speed up its targets to cut carbon emissions RMT claimed the rhetoric must be met with much more ambitious actions.
Transport emissions account for 20% of the UK’s total emissions and the union highlighted the government’s hypocrisy with its current plans for railway austerity and potential cuts to rail services and rail jobs.
RMT also renewed called for the government to urgently standardise green fuel sources and carbon capture and storage technology to avoid job losses amongst seafarers and port workers in the UK.
Shipping and offshore industries have to accept that flying thousands of seafarers into the UK to work on domestic and short sea routes for lower pay and conditions is no longer acceptable on environmental as well as social grounds.
International regulation will be decisive in this and the government must back this green rhetoric in negotiations at IMO level.
Internationally, total carbon emissions from shipping rose nearly 10% between 2012 and 2018.
Commenting on government plans, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘The government says it wants to cut carbon emissions but at the same time is planning to cut funding of public transport services as the massive cutbacks on Network Rail show.
‘In the same year that the UK is hosting the vital COP26 global climate talks the hypocrisy from this government is mind-blowing and they are clearly not taking the climate crisis seriously enough.
‘The government should be showing global leadership with a mass investment in rail, metro and bus services and infrastructure – instead, we’ve got them making backroom plans to make massive cuts to rail and public transport.
‘The inclusion of international shipping and aviation emissions in domestic totals is overdue and there is no certainty over how ships of the future will be fuelled or how escalating emissions from the existing merchant fleet will be mitigated.
‘As in the offshore sector, this transition to clean shipping must stamp out unscrupulous employment practices and create jobs.
‘The government needs to get real and regulate – words are cheap but the need for action has never been greater.”
Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary, said: ‘Today’s ambitious announcement on tackling climate change has to be met by equally ambitious action – something we can’t trust this government to deliver.
‘In order to meet the carbon reduction targets we need investment in clean travel and a shift in behaviour.
‘We need to step up the electrification of our railways, and government should be considering similar action to France which is restricting short haul flights in favour of rail.
‘But this government says one thing and does another. They have increased rail fares above inflation and announced cuts to domestic flight duty, alongside road building projects.
‘And our only green rail link to the continent – Eurostar – is hanging in the balance with this government refusing to step in. Sadly, the rhetoric is completely at odds with reality.’
- Talks on Tuesday to find a resolution between Unite and London United (RATP) at ACAS ended with no agreement.
So a further four days of strike action at seven London garages against the French government-owned bus privateer’s attempts to slash the pay and conditions of hundreds of drivers by up to £2,500 per annum have been announced.
Unite said after the talks: ‘The only proposal put forward by the company was not an offer we could recommend to our members.
‘The offer by the company was 0.5% for 2019, 1.5% for 2020 and a lump sum of £500.
‘Also a reduction from the 60 minute unpaid breaks from the 2019 contracts to 40 minutes and to continue with the transfer agreement between locations and enter into meaningful discussions regarding scheduling TOD (time on duty) and rotas.
‘We had two proposals which we put in together, which was 1% for 2019 and 1.5% for 2020, plus £500 lump sum, or 0.5% for 2019 and 2% for 2020 plus £500 lump sum – with the other three items the same.
‘The company were not prepared to move any further and no agreement could be made to bring this back to the membership to ballot on.
‘The company demanded that we put their proposal to a ballot of members, with a recommendation to accept.
‘We offered to put their proposal to ballot without any recommendation, but they rejected that. So talks have ended without any further talks arranged.
‘There are now strike actions on the following dates: 23rd & 26th April and 7th & 8th May.’