herald

Friday 18 August 2017

Safety body's concern at series of incidents on rail network

The Malahide viaduct collapse (INM)
The Malahide viaduct collapse (INM)

Safety watchdogs have expressed alarm over a series of incidents on the country's rail network, including collisions, door failures and derailments.

The Railway Safety Commission (RSC) described 12 incidents involving Irish Rail trains recorded over an eight-month period as "worrying".

On six occasions, trains derailed at locations in Meath, Limerick, Waterford and Dublin.

Buffers

In two other incidents, trains collided with buffers in Westport, Co Mayo, and Dublin's North Wall.

There were also operational incidents in Kildare and Dublin, including a door failure at Heuston Station.

In correspondence between RSC chairman Gerald Beesley and Irish Rail chief executive David Franks, Mr Beesley questions whether the incidents indicate "fundamental problems" on the network.

"The RSC would be pleased to learn of Iarnrod Eireann's strategic approach to dealing with the type of incident that is now occurring, and whether it is considered that such incidents are indicators of more fundamental problems," Mr Beesley wrote in a letter last August.

In response, Mr Franks said the level of incidents recorded last year is similar to previous years.

He said the company has carried out its own investigations and surveys into operational incidents, and a number of initiatives aimed at improving safety are being rolled out.

"One is the introduction of the Iarnrod Eireann safety campaign that is aimed at increasing safety awareness throughout the organisation," Mr Franks wrote.

"There has been widespread communication with all staff to implement the campaign under the banner 'Accident Free Depends on Me'.

"The key elements of the programme are geared towards showing how individual actions can help prevent accidents, improving close-call (near-miss) reporting, developing safety leadership skills across the organisation and expanding the engagement of staff."

The correspondence was released under the Freedom of Information Act. Irish Rail only came under the legislation late last year.

Collapse

Details of the incidents were revealed only days after the sixth anniversary of the collapse of the Malahide viaduct in August 2009, one of the most serious rail incidents in decades.

The concern being raised over the incidents on the country's rail network has emerged a few months after the Herald revealed that Irish Rail staff were failing to report near-misses for fear of being blamed by senior management.

A safety audit commissioned by the RSC also warned of "poor morale" among workers because of recently imposed pay cuts.

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