9th anniversary of criminal negligence tragedy which left four rail workers dead

Published on Friday, 15 February 2013 11:14
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Today sees the ninth anniversary of the tragedy at Tebay in which four men, Colin Buckley, Darren Burgess, Chris Waters and Gary Tindall, were killed due to the criminal negligence of one of Network Rail's sub-contractors.

The accident happened after a sub-standard trailer loaded with 14 tons of scrap rail broke loose and careered down a 1 in 74 gradient on the West Coast main line in Cumbria at over 45 mph and hit a 10-strong gang of workmen employed by Carillion who were carrying out various maintenance activities in a separate engineering possession.

All four men were employed on the railway and were members of the union. In addition to the deceased, six more members of the gang received physical and psychological injuries.

Two men working for the sub-contractor were found guilty of the manslaughter at Newcastle Crown Court. Mark Connolly was jailed for nine years, reduced to seven at Appeal, and Roy Kennett was jailed for two years.

The anniversary will be marked by a commemorative event this Friday at twelve noon at the site of the memorial stone that marks the tragedy off the A685 just south of Tebay village. Members and RMT officials, along with colleagues from other trade unions, will attend to remember the disaster, pay their respects and send out the message that the preventable events of that day should never be allowed to happen again.

Despite the changes made by the industry since the tragedy, a real risk of track workers being struck by runaway vehicles still remains. But now, thanks to the tireless campaign of the Tebay survivors, the RMT Lancaster branch and representatives of the union, real protection is at long last one step closer.

Since Tebay there have been a number of other incidents of runaways of one type or another that came very near to killing and maiming more track workers. Included in this list are the following incidents:

  • The runaway of a locomotive at Blake Street in August 2005
  • The runaway of a trolley at Larkhall in November 2005
  • The runaway of an RRV in Copenhagen Tunnel in November 2006
  • The runaway of an RRV at Brentwood in November 2007
  • The runaway of a trolley at Haselmere in September 2012

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said that these incidents over the intervening nine years indicated that another Tebay was waiting to happen.

"RMT is seriously concerned that the continued fragmentation of the industry means that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing," he said.

"In order to prevent another tragedy happening again, RMT representatives have been working to secure some form of secondary protection for track workers. The company's other programmes will not do what secondary protection will do, which is to give track workers one last chance to escape with their lives should all the other systems fail."

"Since November 2012 trials have commenced of the Vortok Rearguard system. Six Rearguard secondary protection units have been delivered to Carnforth DU and field trials of these units have now commenced.

An RMT health and safety rep has been seconded to oversee the trials which are expected to last five months following which a joint RMT/Network Rail report into the trials will be produced. If the trials are successful this will lead to a national roll out of the equipment this year.

Source: RMT

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