Report 03/2011: Derailment of a freight train at Carrbridge

Derailment of a freight train at Carrbridge, Badenoch and Strathspey, Scotland, 4 January 2010.


On 4 January 2010, in freezing temperatures and snowy conditions, the front portion of a freight train which was travelling from Inverness towards Perth on the Highland Main Line, derailed at Carrbridge station. The derailed portion of the train came to rest on an embankment, close to some houses. The driver and technician onboard the train suffered minor injuries. Damage was caused to private property, to the derailed train and to the infrastructure of the railway.

The freight train’s braking performance prior to derailing was much reduced from that which would normally be expected. The train’s driver was unaware of this reduction prior to attempting to brake the train on the approach to Carrbridge.

A combination of factors led to the derailment occurring. These included:

  • snow and ice ingress reducing the effectiveness of the train’s brakes
  • the way that the driver of the train applied the rules for operating trains in snowy conditions on steep climbing gradients
  • the train ploughing into and/or disturbing lying snow during the journey from Inverness to Carrbridge; and
  • the presence of deep lying snow close to the railway line.

RAIB has made four recommendations. These are:

  • to freight operating companies, in conjunction with the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), concerning changes to the rules for operating trains in snowy conditions on steep climbing gradients
  • to Network Rail, relating to the assessment of risk at locations including steep gradients when trains are operating over them in snowy conditions
  • to Network Rail, relating to the assessment of risk when deep lying snow is left close to railway lines following the prolonged use of a certain type of snow clearance equipment
  • to Network Rail, concerning the assessment of risk should trains fail to stop when requested to do so at the signal controlling the approach to Carrbridge from Inverness.

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.

RAIB Recommendation response for Carrbridge

Published 10 December 2014