Chief executive Andrew Haines has vowed to understand the cause and put immediate additional safety measures. “Questions are inevitably being asked as to how this could happen and I am determined that we understand the circumstances that led to this devastating event,” he said. “It’s too early to draw conclusions but it is critical that we investigate thoroughly and with care, and work closely with rail safety authorities, to make sure this can’t happen again.”
He said that, while the cause is not yet known, precautionary measures were being immediately implemented. “I will not pre-empt the outcome of the investigation into this awful event, but it is clear the weather was appalling and there were floods and landslips in the area,” he said. “I have asked my teams to put extra measures in place, from immediate, heightened inspections, to medium-term work with meteorologists to improve information and forecasting.”
The immediate precautions he outlined include inspections of dozens of sites nationwide with higher-risk trackside slopes, similar to Stonehaven. Inspections will be carried out by both in-house engineers and specialist contractors and will be supplemented by helicopter surveys.
In the light of the current extreme weather conditions, Network Rail has mobilised its extreme weather action teams. In addition, Network Rail is in dialogue with meteorologists to understand how it can strengthen real-time information for flash flooding caused by unpredictable extreme weather to inform train operations.
“Our engineers are reviewing our existing programme for remote monitoring of high-risk sites to test whether this can go faster or further,” he said.
He added: “Our network was designed for a temperate climate, and it’s challenged when we get extremes such as storms and floods. We’re seeing this more and more and although we can address them on the ground with precautionary measures, we are acutely aware we need a long-term resolution, and we had already secured additional funding and resources to help achieve this.
“Yesterday was a tragedy, a truly horrific event, and my thoughts remain with everyone affected. Understanding what happened is the key to making sure it never occurs again.”