News story

Trains running over unsupported rail, Baildon

Investigation into two passenger trains running over unsupported rail, Baildon, West Yorkshire, 07 June 2016.

Between 17:45 hrs and 17:58 hrs on Tuesday 7 June 2016, two passenger trains passed over a section of the single line at Baildon where part of the supporting embankment had been washed away. This had left one of the rails unsupported over a length of between 3 and 4 metres. The driver of the second train saw the washout but was unable to stop the train before passing over it at a speed of around 45 mph (72 km/h). The train did not derail but the driver was shaken by the event. He stopped the train and made an emergency call to the signaller.

The washout occurred during a period of intense rainfall at around 16:25 hrs that afternoon. A member of public noticed the washed out track around this time and reported it to the local Fire and Rescue Service who then informed Network Rail. At around the same time, a train driver reported flooding in the area, with water flowing above the level of the rails, to the local signaller. Network Rail stopped train movements on the line and sent staff to inspect the track at the reported flooding location. The inspection found that the floodwater had receded significantly, but did not identify the washout 340 metres further along the line towards Bradford. At 17:29 hrs, the line was reopened for use at its maximum speed of 50 mph (80 km/h).

At 17:45 hrs, the 17:16 hrs Bradford Forster Square to Ilkley service passed over the damaged section of track. The driver of this train did not report any fault, but a second call from a member of public was received by the local police stating they had witnessed a train passing over the damaged track. The message was passed to Network Rail, but before the line was blocked to traffic, a second train, the 17:20 hrs Ilkley to Bradford Forster Square service, had passed over it.

Although RAIB was aware of the washout soon afterwards, we did not become aware that passenger trains had passed over it until 24 June 2016.

Our investigation will identify the sequence of events that led to the two passenger trains being allowed to pass over the damaged section of track. It will also consider:

  • any known vulnerabilities to flood damage on this section of track
  • any extreme weather plans for the area
  • how the reports of the track damage and the flooding were communicated within Network Rail
  • how the examination the line was managed
  • any relevant underlying management factors.

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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