The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is to recommend that further research be carried out on the use of train bogie straps, following revelations in Centaur Communications’ ‘The Engineer’ magazine that they could have contributed to the Selby rail crash.
The call will be made in the final report into the accident which has yet to be published. So far the HSE has published two sets of findings on the disaster which killed 10 people, but the possible involvement of the straps that restrain the bogies in the event of a derailment was not mentioned.
The problems caused by the retaining straps were first publicised by The Engineer on July 5. The discovery was made by AEA Technology, which investigated the accident at Great Heck last year on behalf of the inquiry and the owners of the train, HSBC Rail.
The investigation found that the retaining straps, fitted to prevent bogies veering off in a different direction from the rest of the train during accidents, actually helped pull the bogies off the rails when the GNER 225 hit a Land Rover, which had crashed on to the line.
When the train hit the vehicle it ran over the Land Rover’s engine block causing the train’s body to lift. As the body lifted the suspension springs extended, reducing the force holding the wheels to the track. At this point the retaining straps tightened, pulling the wheels upwards and off the rails.
AEA Technology Rail’s managing director Cliff Perry said that if these straps had been just 6in longer the train would probably not have been derailed.
However, despite the industry’s work on the issue the findings were not mentioned in the HSE report, published in February, on vehicles obstructing railway lines. While the general design of bogies was referred to, the straps were not, and only suggested obstacle deflectors as a possible solution to the cause of derailments.
The possible advantages of bogie straps on high-speed trains were first raised in a study carried out as part of the Ladbroke Grove rail inquiry. It recommended that the rolling stock companies Angel Trains and HSBC Rail should look into enhanced measures for bogie retention.
Taking the lead on this research, Angel Trains was to report to the HSE by June this year. But as the Selby crash data needed to be included the report was delayed by one month. When the findings were received in July the HSE said they could be included in the final Selby inquiry report, expected out later this year. But Angel Trains refused to comment on the issue, stating only that its bogie research was at present inconclusive.
The HSE added that the Angel Trains report will also form part of the Health and Safety Commission’s action plan for the rail industry, based on the four disaster inquiries for Selby, Potters Bar, Southall and Ladbroke Grove.