The railway line between Aberdeen and Dundee, that has shut since it was badly damaged by the fatal derailment on 12 August 2020, will reopen on Tuesday, 4 November 2020.
The incident caused extensive damage to the track, bridge, embankments and drainage systems at the accident site at Carmont, near Stonehaven. Following an exhaustive accident investigation, and an interim report issued by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), permission was given for the wrecked train to be recovered in September, Since then, Network Rail has:
- Built a new 900-metre road and temporary bridges over the surrounding farmland to bring specialist lifting equipment to the site;
- Constructed a 600-tonne crawler crane to carefully lift the derailed carriages from the railway;
- Replaced over 500 metres of damaged track, 70 metres of bridge parapets and relaying 400 metres of telecoms cables;
- Repaired and enhanced drainage systems and flood defences above and below the line;
- Rebuilt the railway embankment beneath the accident site.
That is quite an extensive amount of work, but reports state that the process was further delayed by the activities of Police Scotland,which has been conducting its own enquiry into the accident.
Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland’s Railway, said: “We continue to work closely with accident investigators as we seek to learn the lessons of this tragedy and make our railway as safe as possible for our people and our passengers.
“Our engineers have been working around-the-clock to repair and reopen the railway and we thank all our customers and lineside neighbours for the understanding they have shown during this difficult and distressing event.”
ScotRail has been operating a shuttle service between Aberdeen and Stonehaven and between Montrose and Edinburgh to keep customers in the north east moving. Replacement bus services have also been in place between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, linking into cross-border trains.
After the incident on August 12, as an immediate precaution, hundreds of sites nationwide with higher-risk trackside slopes, similar to Stonehaven, were inspected. These inspections were carried out by both in-house engineers and specialist contractors, supplemented by helicopter surveys.
In addition, Network Rail has launched two taskforces, led by independent experts, as part of its long-term response to climate change and the challenge of maintaining its massive portfolio of earthworks (embankments and cuttings), many of which date from the Victorian era.
Dame Julia Slingo FRS, former chief scientist at the Met Office and a world-renowned expert in climatology, is leading a weather action taskforce with the objective of better equipping Network Rail to understand the risk of rainfall to its infrastructure, drawing on the latest scientific developments in monitoring, real-time observations and weather forecasting.
Lord Robert Mair CBE FREng FRS is spearheading an earthworks management taskforce to see how Network Rail can improve the management of its earthworks portfolio, looking at past incidents, latest technologies and innovations and best practice from across the globe.
Network Rail has already doubled its level of invest in earthworks and drainage, up from £550 million between 2009 and 2014 to a budget of £1.3 billion for the period between 2019 and 2024.