Network Rail has been fined £10,000 for allowing trains to cross the Lamington viaduct in Scotland at over 100mph after it had been damaged by a storm.
Lamington Viaduct carries the West Coast main line across the River Clyde in South Lanarkshire, between Carlisle and Glasgow Central. The viaduct’s structural piers stand in the river channel.
On New Year’s Eve 2015, the viaduct was battered by flood waters during Storm Frank. A train driver reported a defect on the track on the morning of 31 December 2015 and trains were told to cross at low speed while a Network Rail maintenance team was sent to the site.
However, the team found “no significant track defects” and the speed restriction was lifted, allowing further trains to cross.
When the 05:57 Crewe to Glasgow service later passed over the viaduct at about 110mph, the driver noticed “large track movements”. Another speed restriction was immediately put in place.
An engineering assessment discovered that floodwater had scoured much of the foundations of the second pier. The line was closed and further investigations made. A stone had fallen out of the pier and there were large cracks above the gap. Divers later found a hole one metre deep under the foundations.
The viaduct was closed for major repair work and did not reopen until late February 2016. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) investigation into the train crossings discovered major flaws in the bridge-monitoring and safety assessment programme.
Following an investigation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service prosecuted Network Rail for allowing trains to travel at more than 100mph over a badly storm damaged viaduct.
Network Rail has been fined £10,000 by Lanark Sheriff Court for the safety breach, after pleading guilty to an offence under health and safety law.
Commenting on behalf of the ORR, HM Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser said: “We welcome this outcome by the Crown Office. Our investigation revealed that Network Rail staff were unaware that they held safety critical duties under Network Rail’s processes to manage infrastructure during extreme weather.
“The viaduct was on Network Rail’s list of high risk structures vulnerable to being washed away by moving water, yet, despite this being a known issue, severe damage went unrecognised because Network Rail failed to implement its own procedures, which would have meant no passenger trains should have passed over the viaduct.
“This verdict should be a reminder to Network Rail, as it progresses plans led by its two new task forces, that it must continue to acknowledge and act to guard against the serious impact of severe weather on infrastructure.”