Report 01/2018: Runaway of a maintenance train near Markinch

Runaway of a maintenance train near Markinch, Fife, 17 October 2017.



At about 04:25 hrs on Tuesday 17 October 2017, a maintenance train that was clearing leaf debris from the track, hit a tree just north of Markinch station, Fife. The debris from the tree disabled the train’s braking system. The train came to a stop before running away backwards for a distance of about 4.7 miles (7.5 km). The train crew on board made an emergency call to the signaller before jumping off the train, suffering minor injuries.

The train eventually came to a stop at Thornton North junction after running backwards and forwards between two adjacent gradients a total of nine times.

The brakes were fully released when debris from the tree operated the release mechanisms on the brake system distributors underneath both of the vehicles in the train.

The driver was unable to reapply the brakes because the debris from the tree had also separated all three of the brake pipes between the two vehicles in the train.


The RAIB has made two recommendations to Network Rail. The first addresses the risk of a runaway being initiated by debris on the track causing multiple disruptions to the braking system on this type of train. The second recommendation addresses the possibility that similar risks might be present for other short formation trains that operate on its infrastructure.

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 Markinch

Published 11 January 2018