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Accident investigation calls for Northern Ireland Railways embankment flood risk review

Development of procedures for adverse weather conditions and assessment of the impact of flood risks on rail earthworks in Northern Ireland has been called for in a report into a rail embankment failure last year.

The proposals were presented in a Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report into how a train came to run onto a 10m section of washed out embankment near Knockmore in Northern Ireland in June last year.

The incident occurred at 7.06am on 28 June when a passenger train from Belfast to Portrush ran onto the embankment that had been damaged by heavy overnight rainfall. The train driver applied the emergency brake and only the lead bogie passed onto the unsupported rails and the train was reversed away without derailment or injury.

According to the RAIB report, the culverts at and downstream from the washout could not cope with the heavy rainfall resulting in localised flooding, the embankment was not designed to cope with differential water levels and no checks were carried out before train services started. RAIB also identified that there was no engagement between Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) and the Rivers

Agency regarding the potential for flooding due to heavy rainfall at the incident site and NIR did not have a weather preparedness procedure did not include a plan for dealing with flooding or heavy rainfall.

RAIB has made five recommendations. The first relates to a review of earthworks and structures with respect to flood risk, including the development of a formalised liaison process with the Rivers Agency for the dissemination of relevant information. The second relates to the development of procedures to maintain safety of the line during and following adverse weather conditions. The other three recommendations relate to safety issues not directly connected with the cause of incident and relate to improving safety critical communications, weed control of the Antrim branch line and improvements to accident investigation procedures after full details of the incident were not reported until six weeks after.

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