Looking down the line at a crashed HST at Carmont in Scotland

Network Rail faces legal action over Scottish deaths

The scene of the crashed HST at Carmont in Scotland in 2020 Image from ORR report into Carmont accident

Network Rail is expected to be prosecuted over shortcomings that resulted in a fatal train crash in Scotland. The British infrastructure management agency, which is responsible for the track infrastructure and other assets, is to face charges over the handling of a landslip situation on the main line between Dundee and Aberdeen. The accident, which involved the derailment of a passenger service, killed three people and led to a lengthy closure of the line.

An accident on 12 August 2020 at Carmont in Scotland may result in Network Rail being found culpable in the deaths of three people. A landslip, after a night of heavy rain, ultimately resulted in a derailment. Investigators have already criticised Network Rail, and made twenty specific recommendations as a result. Earlier it was disclosed that the line near Stonehaven had been inadequately maintained in the recent past, which was citied as likely to have contributed to the fatal accident.

Twenty safety recommendations

UK newspaper The Scotsman has claimed an exclusive by reporting that Network Rail will be held legally accountable for the derailment of a passenger train, and the subsequent deaths of three people, including the train crew. The accident in Scotland, almost two years ago in 2020, Six other people were injured in the crash, which happened during pandemic lockdown procedures. All nine people on board the ScotRail operated service were either killed or injured.

A map of the crash at Carmont showing the line between Aberdeen and Laurencekirk
A map of the crash at Carmont showing the line between Aberdeen and Laurencekirk on the east coast of Scotland. Image: ORR Report

The train with around two-hundred and fifty seats, was almost empty due to the pandemic restrictions on travel. Despite being a main line “Inter7Cities” branded service, running in the morning peak, the light loading was due to government imposed Covid measures. This morning service, from Aberdeen to Glasgow, was returning towards Aberdeen due to a landslip blocking the line. It was travelling at 73 miles per hour (117 kilometres per hour), just under the normal speed for the line concerned. After derailing, the train deviated to the left, before striking a bridge parapet which caused the vehicles to scatter. The official report from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch was severely critical of Network Rail, and made twenty safety recommendations, an exceptionally high number.

Previously fined over similar incident

At the time of the investigation, the Office of Rail and Road reserved the right to take action if necessary. It would appear they are about to exercise that right. According to newspaper reports, the police investigation into the three deaths in the accident has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal. Under Scottish law, the Procurator Fiscal is responsible for deciding if a prosecution should be brought to court.

An annotated aerial view of the crash site at Carmont near Stonehaven in Scotland in 2020.
A description of the crash site at Carmont near Stonehaven in Scotland. Three people died on 12 August 2020 and Network rail may now be prosecuted. Image: ORR Report

Network Rail has from time to time been fined for shortcomings in its operations. Last year, the agency was fined 1.4 million pounds (1.7 million euro) after it was found responsible for permanent injuries sustained by a contractor. In 2020, the agency was fined a smaller amount for allowing trains to run too fast over a damaged bridge in the south of Scotland – an incident with some similarities to the Carmont tragedy.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

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