News story

Dangerous occurrence at Abergavenny station

Investigation into a dangerous occurrence at Abergavenny station, Monmouthshire, Wales, 28 July 2017.

Footbridge at Abergavenny station following the accident (image courtesy of Network Rail)
Footbridge at Abergavenny station following the accident (image courtesy of Network Rail)

At around 18:05 hrs on 28 July 2017, as a northbound train entered Abergavenny station, a cable hanging from the station footbridge became caught on the roof of the train. The cable had an outside diameter of approximately 25 mm and supplied electrical power to a nearby signal box. It was connected to a local mains supply point, housed in a cabinet adjacent to platform 1, and crossed the railway by attachment to the footbridge.

The motion of the train dragged the cable and caused it to be pulled from its remaining fixings. Damage was caused to the station buildings, to the train and to other equipment on the station. The cable was pulled by the train until it broke, after which it recoiled back. The recoiling cable caused minor injuries and distress to a number of people at the station.

Our investigation will identify the sequence of events that led to the accident. It will also consider:

  • how the fixings of the cable had degraded to the point where the cable was hanging low enough to come into contact with a train
  • processes used by Network Rail to ensure the safety of equipment which is attached to structures on the railway
  • processes used by railway staff and station tenants to report defects which could pose a hazard to safe train operation
  • any relevant underlying management factors

On 17 August 2017 the RAIB issued the following urgent safety advice to the railway operators:

Drooping or hanging cables in close proximity to running lines can become snagged by passing trains and pose a real hazard (electrocution and being struck by the cables) to the travelling public and staff at stations and level crossings and to staff working near the line.

Therefore Infrastructure Managers, Station Operators and TOCs/FOCs should:

  • encourage all staff, including train crew, to report any cables which are drooping sufficiently low above the line that they could come into contact with trains, for immediate remedial action
  • check that existing over-line cabling at stations remains securely fastened and include such cables in routine safety checks
  • check that new installations or reinstallations of electrical service power cables over running lines are robustly fastened using only railway approved methods and fastenings

Our investigation is independent of any investigation by the railway industry or by the industry’s regulator, the Office of Rail and Road.

We will publish our findings, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of our investigation. This report will be available on our website.

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Published 14 August 2017