At about 10:41 hrs on 24 June 2014, a track worker was struck by a passenger train travelling at about 80 mph (129 km/h), near Redhill. The accident occurred on a section of the main line between Brighton and London known as the Up Quarry line. He was the leader of a team of twelve people who were fitting emergency clamp plates to lengths of rail where cracks had been identified during an earlier inspection. The accident happened on the top of an embankment about ten metres high, on a section of line where trains can travel at up to 90 mph (145 km/h).
The team were doing the work of fitting clamp plates to one of the two lines at the site while trains continued to run on both lines. They were protected by lookouts, whom the controller of site safety (COSS) had positioned at the site and at some distance away on both sides of the site of work, to warn the team of the approach of a train in sufficient time for them to stop work and move to a position of safety before the train arrived. At the time the accident occurred, the work had been in progress for about forty minutes. The other members of the team had completed their work, and the team leader was engaged in taking measurements for the lengths of replacement rail that would be required at the site. The lookouts had warned the team of the approach of a southbound train, and a short time after this had passed, and before the COSS had given permission for anyone to return to the track, the lookouts gave another warning, for a northbound train.
At about the time this warning was given, the team leader began to walk along the side of the line, with his back to the approaching northbound train. As he walked, he moved closer to the Up Quarry line, and the train struck him on his right shoulder and threw him down the side of the embankment. Other members of the team gave him first-aid treatment and called the emergency services, and an air ambulance helicopter landed on the railway. The casualty was airlifted to hospital, but he had suffered life-changing injuries.
The RAIB’s investigation found that the position of safety the team were using was not adequate because there was no level place to stand, clear of the line. The team leader was unaware of the imminent danger from the approaching train.
The RAIB has identified three learning points and made three recommendations arising from this investigation. The learning points relate to staff speaking up if they feel unsafe, the need for train drivers to sound a warning as they approach each group of workers who are on or near the track, and the importance of first-aid training for staff working in high-risk areas. The recommendations are all addressed to Network Rail and cover suitable lineside positions of safety, the company’s policy on first aid at work, and the training of people who act as lookouts.
Response to recommendations:
- RAIB will periodically update the status of recommendations as reported to us by the relevant safety authority or public body
- RAIB may add comment, particularly if we have concerns regarding these responses.