Stonehaven train crash: TSSA union’s fears over rail safety improvements as trains halted for anniversary

A union fears Network Rail will fail to fully implement recommended improvements in an attempt to avert another fatal landslide as tributes take place today to mark the first anniversary of the crash near Stonehaven.

ScotRail plans to halt all its trains to hold a one-minute silence at 9.43am, when the train was reported derailed at Carmont a year ago after hitting stones washed onto the track by heavy rain, with the loss of three lives.

Driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62, were killed, while the other train crew member and the five other passengers were injured.

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Tributes include a private memorial service for their families being held at Stonehaven Station – the nearest to the crash site – where wreaths will be laid and a plaque unveiled.

The incident involved the 6.38am Aberdeen-Glasgow service, operated by one of ScotRail’s refurbished Inter7City trains, with a final report by the UK Department for Transport’s rail accident investigation branch expected in the autumn.

Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland’s Railway, which comprises ScotRail and Network Rail Scotland, said: “Everyone at Scotland’s Railway will always be broken-hearted about the terrible accident at Stonehaven.

“Today, exactly a year on, we pay tribute to Brett, Donald and Christopher, who lost their lives, and also, of course, we remember those who were injured.

“We come together as Scotland’s Railway family and we send our love and support to everyone, particularly the loved ones of the deceased, who have been affected by the tragedy.

The wreaths laid at Stonehaven Station today. Picture: ScotRail

"We will never forget.”

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Two major reports were commissioned by the UK Government, which is responsible for rail safety, from taskforces on weather action and earthworks on how to tackle the impact of increasingly frequent extreme weather on the rail network.

These made more than 50 recommendations in March, such as on drainage and improving staff skills, with Network Rail pledging to “carefully consider every single one and build them into our planning and future funding”.

A memorial plaque was unveiled at Stonehaven Station today. Picture: ScotRail

However, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) doubted whether Network Rail would be able to implement them all because of cuts to the organisation.

General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “It's really important that Network Rail implement every single recommendation in the report.

“Sadly, I fear that with a kamikaze jobs cull and cuts across Network Rail on the horizon, they will simply fail to do this.”

The union claimed the body was finding track and asset inspections to be a “challenge” and making greater use of helicopters and drones “to make up for being unable to get boots on the ground”.

The crash happened as the Glasgow-bound train from Aberdeen was returning north to Stonehaven after being halted by reports of another landslip ahead. Picture: John Devlin

Network Rail has already warned that further “earthwork failures” were inevitable due to increased rainfall and because most cuttings and embankments were poorly engineered by modern standards, but it was impracticable to rebuild them.

It said it had implemented an unspecified number of the reports’ recommendations but said many of them were “long-term strategic changes” involving alterations to its spending plans, and needed “careful planning”.

Safety and engineering director Martin Frobisher said: “Heavy rain caused ground slips on many occasions across the entire network last year and although tragic accidents are thankfully incredibly rare and none other than Stonehaven caused injuries, it is clear that extreme weather presents a significant challenge to the way we safely and reliably manage railway infrastructure."

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The crash scene on August 12 last year
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