Embankment failure near Knockmore

Train ran onto a washed-out embankment near Knockmore, Northern Ireland, 28 June 2012.

At around 07:06 hrs on 28 June 2012, a passenger train scheduled to operate between Belfast and Portrush, ran onto a section of washed-out embankment near Knockmore on the Antrim branch line. The driver applied the emergency brake when he became aware of the hazard but was unable to stop the train before the leading bogie ran over the unsupported rails at the washout. The train came to a stand with the bogies of the leading vehicle either side of the washout. The train did not derail and was subsequently reversed away. There were no injuries.

The RAIB investigation found that the following factors led to the incident:

  • heavy rainfall in the area during the previous evening;
  • a system of culverts at and downstream of the washout could not cope with the water flows generated by the rainfall, causing localised flooding;
  • the embankment could not withstand the differential water levels that built up across it;  
  • the train was sent onto the Antrim branch line without any additional precautions, despite the heavy rainfall; and
  • the driver was unable to see the washout in time to be able to stop the train before it.

Two underlying factors were identified:

  • there was no engagement between Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) and the Rivers Agency regarding the potential for flooding due to heavy rainfall at the incident site; and
  • NIR’s weather preparedness procedure did not include a plan for dealing with flooding or heavy rainfall.

As a consequence of the incident, the RAIB has made five recommendations to NIR. The first relates to a review of earthworks and structures with respect to flood risk, including the development of a formalised liaison process with the Rivers Agency for the dissemination of relevant information. The second relates to the development of procedures to maintain safety of the line during and following adverse weather conditions. The other three recommendations relate to safety issues not directly connected with the cause of incident; improving safety critical communications, weed control of the Antrim branch line and improvements to accident investigation procedures.


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 Knockmore

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