News story

Partial collapse of a wall onto open railway lines, Liverpool

Investigation into the partial collapse of a wall onto open railway lines, near Liverpool Lime Street station, 28 February 2017.

This news article was withdrawn on

This item has been moved to the National Archives as RAIB has published its report describing this incident. See report 17/2017.

Aerial view of collapsed wall
Aerial view of collapsed wall

At around 17:38 hrs on 28 February 2017, part of a wall beside the railway between Liverpool Lime Street and Edge Hill stations, collapsed onto tracks running through a cutting.

An electric passenger train, the 16:40 hrs Northern Rail service from Manchester Airport to Liverpool Lime Street, was passing through Edge Hill station at the time. The driver saw flashes ahead, the overhead power supply went off and the signal in front of his train changed to red. He stopped his train and called the signaller who asked him to proceed at caution and examine the line and the overhead wires once the power had been restored. The power was restored at 17:55 hrs and the train moved slowly along the line. At about 18:02 hrs the driver saw more flashes from the power lines ahead of his train, possibly indicating further falling material, and the power went off again. The driver braked and stopped his train 360 metres from the site of the collapse.

The driver of the delayed 17:47 hrs Virgin Trains service to London Euston, an electric train travelling in the opposite direction, was also requested by the signaller to proceed at caution and examine the track and overhead wires. On approaching the site, the driver of this train reported that there was a large pile of rubble blocking all lines and his train could proceed no further.

The rubble had fallen from the top of the wall on the north side of the line. The land at the top of the wall had a number of shipping containers on it. These had been converted to workshop and office accommodation. The ground level in the area where the containers were sited had been considerably raised at some time in the past.

At the time of the collapse it was raining heavily and had been doing so for around three hours previously.

The wall at the location of the collapse was approximately 20 metres above the track and the material which fell onto the lines, amounting to some 70-80 m3, fell over all four tracks. The overhead wires on the two tracks closest to the wall were demolished and the overhead wiring on the third track from the wall was damaged.

Our investigation will aim to determine the sequence of events. It will also include consideration of:

  • the history of the wall and the site adjacent to it
  • Network Rail’s management of the wall
  • findings of the structural examinations of the wall
  • the process used to examine the wall and the land supported by it
  • any relevant underlying management factors

Our investigation is independent of any investigation by the railway industry, the British Transport Police 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 13 March 2017