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A rail worker narrowly escaped death after falling over while working on a live railway in Wales with a train fast approaching.
The track worker was one of a group of two AmcoGiffen employees who had been requested by Network Rail’s structure asset management team to carry out an inspection because of concerns about ice accumulation in the roof of the the Llandegai tunnel in February.
A Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report reveals that the worker tripped and fell when trying to exit the railway. With a train fast approaching, the RAIB report concludes that “the track worker managed to crawl clear with about a second to spare”.
The report adds that a line blockage on the up line (the line that was used by trains heading east) had been put in place. However, the tunnel remained open on the down line.
When the train approached the workers were on the wrong line, which ultimately led to the near miss.
The report adds: “The group had just entered the tunnel on the down line (the line used by trains heading west) and were using a long pole to remove icicles from the water deflection sheeting on the tunnel roof.
“The COSS [controller of site safety] heard the horn, turned and saw the train approaching them. He shouted that they were on the wrong line and managed to get to safety on the other line.
“The other track worker tried to do the same but fell over. He then managed to roll into the space between the tracks.
“The driver saw that the track worker was across the right-hand running rail of the down line, and immediately applied the emergency brake and sounded the horn again.
“CCTV from the train showed that the track worker managed to crawl clear with about a second to spare.”
No-one was injured, but the report adds that “those involved were badly shaken”.
The RAIB report concludes: “The incident occurred because neither the COSS nor the track worker was aware that they were working on a line that was still open to traffic.”
It adds: “A safeguarded safe system of work would almost certainly have averted the incident since trains would be prevented from approaching on either line.
“However, it would have meant asking the signaller for times when both lines could be blocked. RAIB found no evidence of such a request.
“The COSS had only been offered single line blocks when arranging the inspection of Penmaenbach and Penmaenrhos tunnels, and explained that he had probably come to accept that it would not be worthwhile asking for more.
“RAIB reviewed the train service pattern on 13 February and found that there were regular periods of 20 minutes or more when no trains were running on either the up or down line in Llandegai tunnel. In fact, had the COSS and signaller waited the 10 minutes until train 1D12 had passed, another train would not have been due for over an hour.
“RAIB has concluded that this should have been more than sufficient time for the group to have inspected Llandegai tunnel and that a safeguarded safe system of work could, therefore, have reasonably been adopted.”
In an effort to avoid these types of incidents Network Rail has recently asked all of its route directors to accelerate plans to “eliminate” human lookouts and replace them with alternative technologies.
The decision was taken after Tyler Byrne was struck and killed while working on the track near Surbiton, south-west London.
His death sparked anger from the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA), which has called for a "full and thorough" investigation.
This article first appeared on www.newcivilengineer.com
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