Carmont train derailment: Climate change is no excuse for failings that led to deaths of three people – Scotsman comment

All public bodies and companies responsible for public infrastructure must ensure it is able to cope with our changing climate

The record £6.7 million fine imposed on Network Rail over the Carmont rail crash is designed as a punishment for failings that led to the deaths of three people and a deterrent to prevent a repeat of similarly deadly incompetence. But rail industry executives are far from the only ones who should heed this warning.

Network Rail admitted criminal charges in relation to multiple failings in the maintenance of the line and its planning for extreme weather. The derailment happened after torrential rain led to debris being washed onto the track because of an incorrectly built drainage trench.

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Many people will be astonished that Network Rail was unable to ensure the line was safe in heavy rain, given such weather is hardly a rare event in Scotland. And many will be sympathetic to the call by Aslef for the executives responsible to be held personally accountable, with train drivers’ union saying the Scottish Government should consider making changes to corporate homicide laws.

The strength of feeling over the deaths of train driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie and passenger Christopher Stuchbury is clear and entirely justified. This is an accident that should never have happened.

However, it is likely that similar incidents, in which key public infrastructure fails at a critical moment, will happen with increasing frequency as climate change brings heavier rain, fiercer storms and hotter heatwaves. This means planning for extreme weather is much more important than it once was and that the relevant public bodies and private firms must regularly update their procedures to take account of the latest information. If they fail to do this, people may die.

A Rail Accident Investigation Branch report published in March last year made 20 recommendations to improve railway safety, 13 of which were directed at Network Rail, but, astonishingly, only two have been fully implemented. The apparent lack of urgency hardly inspires confidence.

The cold, hard reality of climate change is upon us. If ever there was a time when it could be used as an excuse, the unnecessary deaths of three people mean this is no longer remotely acceptable.



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