INVESTIGATION INTO RAIL DEATHS ‘failure to protect staff over many years’

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South Western Railway workers demanding that a guard is kept on all trains

AN INVESTIGATION released last week into the deaths in July 2019 of two railworkers at Magram, a suburb of Port Talbot in Wales, has found there was ‘a failure to protect staff there over many years’.

Gareth Delbridge, 64, and Michael Lewis, 58, were hit by a Swansea to Paddington train on July 3. They were part of a group of six carrying out maintenance work at Margam, Port Talbot.
A report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said an underlying factor in the deaths was Network Rail’s ‘long-term failure to improve the safety of people working on the railway’.
It stressed: ‘Over a period of many years, Network Rail had not adequately addressed the protection of track workers from moving trains.
‘The major changes required to fully implement significant changes to the standard governing track worker safety were not effectively implemented across Network Rail’s maintenance organisation.’
Responding to the RAIB report, the Office of Rail and Road HM Chief Inspector of Railways, Ian Prosser CBE, said: ‘Our thoughts continue to be with the families and friends of Gareth Delbridge and Michael Lewis, who were struck and killed by a train at Margam in July last year.
‘Track worker safety is paramount, and in the 18 months prior to the incident at Margam, we undertook additional inspections following our growing concerns that Network Rail was not doing enough to control risks to track workers.
‘These inspections had resulted in formal enforcement action being taken. Network Rail responded by forming a significant task force to bring about much needed improvements.
‘Our investigation into this tragic incident continues, however the recommendations in this report are welcomed.’
RMT’s response to the RAIB report into tragedy at Margam, Neath Port Talbot in July 2019:
General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Our first thoughts are with the families and friends of our members who lost their lives and our members who witnessed this tragic incident.
‘The RAIB report is comprehensive and raises many issues of concern relating to industry standards, processes and arrangements, and supports many of the concerns on track worker safety that RMT has been raising for many years.
‘All parties in the industry need to reflect on the implications of the report and strive to put track safety as a top priority and make the necessary changes with the aim of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries.
‘RMT will continue to engage with Network Rail, the rail companies and the authorities on issues arising from the report and will be pushing for the highest track safety standards possible in order to protect our members.’

  • TSSA’s response to the accident investigation report:

TSSA today welcomes the accident investigation report into the Margam rail tragedy and calls on Network Rail to work jointly with rail unions on implementing the report’s lessons and recommendations.
The Rail Accident Investigation branch (RAIB) has today published its report into the tragic events of Margam, near Port Talbot in South Wales, where two Network Rail workers lost their lives. On 3 July 2019, Network Rail (NR) maintenance workers Gareth Delbridge (who was 64) and Michael ‘Spike’ Lewis (aged 58), were hit by the train travelling from Swansea to London Paddington. They were both killed.
TSSA is calling on Network Rail to work with the unions on implementing the 11 recommendations and two learning points contained in the RAIB report.
Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary, said: ‘Our union welcomes today’s report into the tragedy at Margam and the important lessons that must be learned from this terrible event.
‘The awful loss of life at Margam affected so many across our rail industry, and our thoughts of course remain with Gareth and Spike’s family and friends.
‘It is deeply saddening that the report highlights the fact that Network Rail failed to engage with concerns raised by our senior health and safety reps in the years leading up to the tragedy.
‘Today’s report underlines the clear need for Network Rail and other rail employers to properly and fully engage with trade union health and safety reps, who are often subject matter experts. It also supports our view that much more needs to be done to address our union’s concerns about management assurance processes arising from the recent “Putting Passengers First” reorganisation.
‘We recognise that since the incident, Network Rail has already started to address some of the report’s findings, but much more remains to be done.
‘We will be seeking assurances from Network Rail that they will work with us to implement the recommendations within the report so that track working can be made safer for all.’

  • Unions thank public and rail workers for their overwhelming support for the Stonehaven tragedy appeal fund

Following the tragic events at Stonehaven, the rail unions ASLEF and RMT set up a joint fund for the families of those who died. The fund has raised an incredible £142,200 to date. Both RMT and ASLEF are overwhelmed by the response from rail union members, branches, fellow trade unionists, and the public.
The fund will be split equally between the families of Brett McCullough, Donald Dinnie, and Christopher Stuchbury. ASLEF and RMT wish to express our gratitude to Alan Rodgers, of Thompsons Scotland, who has independently verified the accounts.
Kevin Lindsay, ASLEF organiser in Scotland, said: ‘I am humbled by this total, which is a magnificent effort by our members, our branches, and our fellow trade unionists.
‘Whilst money will not bring back to the families their loved ones who died at Stonehaven, it will help them to deal with many of the practical matters and difficulties they will face.
‘And I am determined, with my colleagues, to pursue the causes of this accident, and get the answers everyone wants, for the bereaved families, and for every other railwayman and woman.’
Mick Hogg, RMT Regional organiser, said: ‘This is a true testament to the solidarity of railway workers, their families and friends.
‘The money will help the families but we will continue to campaign to make the railway safer – including the changing of industry rules for reporting & responding to adverse weather conditions that need to be improved & strengthened – if we are to learn any lessons from this travesty.’
RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash concluded: ‘I want to thank our local Aberdeen branch officials Ann Joss and Mike Rollo, along with Jim Gray from our Scottish Regional Council and Regional Organiser Mick Hogg, who have worked tirelessly with our ASLEF colleagues to raise this extraordinary sum of money for the families of the Stonehaven victims.
‘They have helped ensure that those who lost their lives in this tragedy will never be forgotten.’