herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Scouts saw erosion on bridge but inspectors looked in wrong place

IARNROD Eireann has rejected any suggestions that it was warned of trouble with the Malahide Viaduct three years before its collapse.

However, a major investigation into the accident last year has found that concerns were expressed by a group of scouts, canoeing beneath the bridge, just a week before the collapse.

But there was a ‘misunderstanding’ and an engineer focused an inspection on the structure of the bridge, not the foundation beneath.

Iarnrod Eireann today released the findings of its investigations into the incident.

On August 21 last year, erosion caused a supporting pillar – Pier 4 – to begin to collapse into the sea as a packed commuter train passed over it, and tragedy was narrowly averted.

STONES

The report detailed how: “During the week before the collapse, a group leader of Malahide Sea Scouts observed that a rock at the base of Pier 4 had been washed away and contacted Iarnrod Eireann on 17th August to report this.

“The information reported by this member of the public was dealt with in a professional manner by Iarnrod Eireann staff.

“However a misunderstanding appears to have developed so that the engineer delegated to inspect the viaduct on 18th August was looking primarily for cracks or missing stones in the pier structure rather than in its foundations.”

The reported added: “He found the “dressed” stonework of the viaduct to be in need of pointing and there were some cracked stones on a number of piers.

“Whilst none of these faults were of a serious structural nature, their presence appeared to him to explain the reason for the report from the canoeist.

“Therefore this visual inspection did not lead engineers to question the stability or the structural integrity of the viaduct.”

EROSION

Meanwhile, Iarnrod Eireann rejected a report that it was warned about serious erosion three years before the accident.

The rail company said that the 2006 Bridge Scour inspection of the Malahide Viaduct, carried out by independent specialist diver engineers, did not state that there was any reason for concern about scour at that time.

“It stated that as the bridge was susceptible to scour, the underwater examinations should continue at intervals not to exceed to six years,” Iarnord Eireann said.

The company submitted its complete report to the Rail Accident Investigation Unit and the Railway Safety Commission last month, and published parts of it today. The report will be considered by the Rail Accident

Investigation Unit as part of its independent investigation into the incident.

The rail line was closed for almost three months, reopening last November. The report said that a series of actions have already taken place, or are under way arising out of the accident. The driver of the train has been commended for his quick thinking.

The report also made recommendations, including that flood and tidal warning arrangements, using information from Met Eireann and the coast guard should be formalised through Iarnrod Eireann.

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