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Stonehaven Derailment–Did Climate Change Play A Role?

August 14, 2020

By Paul Homewood





First reports indicated the train was derailed by a landslip, after heavy rain and thunderstorms caused flooding and travel disruption in the east of Scotland.

One rail industry source said the train was initially halted because of flooding on the line.

The driver apparently contacted control to ask permission to switch tracks. It is believed the train reversed and switched to clearer tracks before the crash.

What role did the weather play?

Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson visited the scene on Thursday.

He said it was too soon to speculate about the cause of the derailment.

But he added: "What I think we can assess, though, is that weather has had an impact."

He revealed the train had been travelling north, attempting to return to Aberdeen, when it crashed….

Network Rail was warned about its resilience to severe weather just four weeks before the Aberdeenshire derailment.

A health and safety report by the Office of Rail and Road noted a spike in landslips, demonstrating the "vulnerability" of the railways.

Network Rail said it was working with meteorologists to strengthen the information it receives about flash flooding caused by extreme weather and its engineers were reviewing the remote monitoring of high-risk sites to test whether it can be improved.

The government-owned company added that its extreme weather action teams will "incorporate immediate learning into their plans as soon as it becomes available".

Chief executive Andrew Haines said: "Our climate is changing and it is increasingly challenging the performance and reliability of the railway, but incidents like yesterday’s devastating accident are incredibly rare, and our railway remains the safest major railway in Europe.

"Our network was designed for a temperate climate, and it’s challenged when we get extremes such as storms and floods.

"We’re seeing this more and more and although we can address them on the ground with precautionary measures, we are acutely aware we need a long-term resolution, and we had already secured additional funding and resources to help achieve this.

"Yesterday was a tragedy, a truly horrific event, and my thoughts remain with everyone affected. Understanding what happened is the key to making sure it never occurs again."

Until a full investigation takes place, we will not know exactly what happened at Stonehaven. However, quite disgracefully, Network Rail’s CEO is already trying to shift the blame on to climate change.


I have seen no actual rainfall data for the area on the day of the accident, but we can look at daily rainfall data for the three weather stations close to Stonehaven:

 time series

  time series

time series


KNMI’s data runs from 1961 to 2018, and there is no evidence that daily rainfall is becoming more extreme at any of the stations.


I have also been told that the landslip is being blamed on heavy winter rainfall this year. But again this flies in the face of the facts:


And as we know, of course, we had a notably dry spring this year. Nor have June and July been particularly wet, so the ground could not have been unusually wet prior to this week’s storms.


It will be a scandal if Network Rail are able to wriggle out of their failures and responsibilities by blaming this accident on climate change.

  1. Dick Goodwin permalink
    August 14, 2020 10:27 am

    Blame it on the weather and I will still get my bonus and another nice job after I leave this one. Did you see how I did that?

    • Curious George permalink
      August 14, 2020 3:52 pm

      Rain? In Scotland??

      • George Reagan permalink
        August 14, 2020 4:39 pm

        Good one !!!

  2. August 14, 2020 10:28 am

    I used to live very close to the accident site and am familiar with the local geology and flash flooding. The soil in that area is a heavy clay. This does not absorb water quickly so after heavy rain the burns (rivers, streams) can rapidly rise causing flooding as was the case in the nearby town of Stonehaven.
    In the aerial photos I could not see a river near where the landslip occurred. This suggests to me (I’m not an expert) a build up of water underneath the embankment which could have given way if the underground water pressure increased. This may have been due to a blocked drain. I believe (though i’m not sure) that blocked drains have been an issue on that railway before, and the images of flooded tracks could confirm blocked drains.

    • sean2829 permalink
      August 14, 2020 12:19 pm

      Our local utilities have similar problems. Save money by not clearing trees and branches near power lines the blame the weather. A look into money spent on maintenance of right of ways confirmed corporate ambivalence to this problem.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        August 16, 2020 9:32 am

        Normally the EU gets the blame for lack of maintenance, Climate Change makes an excellent substitute.

    • Sam Duncan permalink
      August 14, 2020 3:43 pm

      I’m a fair distance away, but off the top of my head I can think of at least half a dozen burst water mains within walking distance here in Glasgow over the last year or so. It’s difficult not to conclude that the Scottish People’s Water Soviet hasn’t been as attentive as the council water departments used to be, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if it turns out to be either that or, as you say, a blocked drain.

    • Duker permalink
      August 15, 2020 12:37 am

      This picture gives a better view but the detail ,( a jumble of words which arent too clear)
      “when it was derailed after hitting a separate landslip.
      The track curved to the right, but investigators said the train continued in a straight line for about 100 yards before hitting the parapet of a bridge.”

  3. Alan permalink
    August 14, 2020 10:31 am

    Dry spring and summer, so blame it on winter rain caused by climate change.
    Empty hands in the air “nothing to do with me, it is all those meat eating car drivers causing rail accidents”

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      August 14, 2020 11:54 am

      On the other hand increased run off from very dry ground just might be a contributing factor. In theory. But the message is, “leave it to the investigation and stop pointless speculation.”

    • August 14, 2020 2:16 pm

      BBC report: In Stonehaven town centre, streets were under more than a foot of water, with the owners of a local fish and chip ship saying they were “devastated” at being flooded for the fourth time in nine years.

      Presumably that’s an increase of some kind on previous decades, for whatever reason?

    • George Reagan permalink
      August 14, 2020 4:43 pm

      Great sarcasm !!

      • August 14, 2020 10:32 pm

        Knowledge of local conditions would be needed for a more informed comment. There could be drainage issues for example.

  4. August 14, 2020 10:37 am

    The pathetic over-paid fool of a man is protecting his bonus! This nonsense is going on up and down the country where bad or insufficient work is being done and when something goes wrong as a consequence which should mean individuals have serious questions to answer, the pathetic and meaningless excuse of climate change is invoked. You are quite correct to say that until a FULL investigation is completed then no finger pointing and certainly no politically motivated speculation should be entered into. I note that the “impartial” BBC picked up on this and published it, no doubt with relish! It is part of the job of those responsible for the track that frequent inspections of the terrain in which the line sits should be made. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the report but …climate change….give me the airline sick bag!

    • Dick Goodwin permalink
      August 14, 2020 10:39 am

      Hopefully in the end the bloke with the shovel and pickaxe will get the blame.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      August 14, 2020 1:47 pm

      You saved me commenting, except to say, I live with a small river as a boundary and EA maintenance has been noticeable by its absence. They are well up on the facility for blaming CC for any floods we suffer.

      • bobn permalink
        August 14, 2020 3:55 pm

        Yes. No clearing in the Thames river for at least 10 years. Large fallen tree stretches 30ft in the river collecting drift wood. Been there for 3yrs. Reeds and silt have encroached and narrowed river by 10ft in places. When it next floods the riverside towns will anyone note the lack of maintenance as a factor. A derelict old boat has been moored for 4yrs. Neighbour tried to find out who is responsible – no agency would take responsibility. Asked the police and they said ‘not their responsibility and they didnt know who oversees the river’.
        We have so many public bodies and they all pass the buck in a circle.
        NHS blames PHE blames Health Dept blames PHE blames NHS for total lack of preparation, false advice and national shambles of mishandling Wuhan Flu.

    • George Reagan permalink
      August 14, 2020 4:48 pm

      Love the title at the beginning. The CFact web site woluld love to entertain your thoughts.

  5. August 14, 2020 10:48 am

    There has been a lack of investment in the railway north of Dundee. They are still using semaphore signals and signal boxes in the north of Scotland which rightly belong on a heritage railway. How come the signalman who apparently gave permission for the train to return to Aberdeen did not notice that it did not arrive at Stonehaven where is should have changed tracks? this journey should not have taken more than 10 minutes.

  6. jack broughton permalink
    August 14, 2020 10:59 am

    What is immediately important is that risk assessments are stepped-up to cover the areas around tracks. As with previous railway incidents, there has been a long accident-free period and sensitivity to risks falls during these periods. Managers ask: “Why survey the slopes when nothing happens there and it is nearly impossible to measure the risk?”.

    In areas like the Nuclear power and Chemicals industries the risk approach is almost ludicrously cautious, while in many, much more dangerous, industries the risks are totally ignored until something goes wrong.

    The tower blocks are still potential towering-infernos despite Grenfell’s evidence.

    It is the “known-unknowns” that catch us out. How far to go in assessing these is the question.

  7. Ed P permalink
    August 14, 2020 11:04 am

    Andrew Haines said, “Our network was designed for a temperate climate…”, but perhaps should have said, “Our network was designed with the requirement for regular inspection and track maintenance.”

    • August 14, 2020 11:15 am

      What does Mr Haines think it is now in Aberdeen, sub tropical? The lack of critical thinking among highly placed people today is a wonderful but worrying demonstration of how thin is the veneer of those critical factors required to maintain and hopefully also advance our society . We became complacent and allowed the wolf, nay we invited the wolf in through the door to sit at the table.

    • mjr permalink
      August 14, 2020 12:45 pm

      i think his response should have been “our network was designed for an earlier century (i.e the 19th century) “

  8. ianprsy permalink
    August 14, 2020 11:11 am

    I can’t find it at the moment, but a landslip closed lines near Doncaster a few years ago, not caused by CC AFAIK. Did find this:

    Apparently, same thing happened in 1940.

    • August 14, 2020 11:38 am

      To prove CC involvement there needs to be a measure of CC and all I can see is arm waving and religious fever from those tribal individuals incapable of thinking and acting for themselves. We inhabit a regressive world where the meritocracy is dead and the D and E graders are now able to achieve positions of power based on victim status. Not the kind of input to instil confidence for example in designing then building a bridge but oh they can say all the right fashionable words. Suppose Haines also took the knee

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      August 14, 2020 1:00 pm

      Nine died in a landslip in Sonning cutting on the Great Western line in December 1841. The lengthman reported nothing amiss the previous evening and a train passed over the same track less than two hours before the accident. Sometimes shit happens! Blame the weather of you like but why try blaming “the climate” for a similar disaster 180 years later?! It makes no sense. There was torrential rain then; there is torrential rain now.

      That time it was in the middle of a cold December; this time it’s in the middle of a hot August!

      • Bloke back down the pub permalink
        August 15, 2020 11:29 am

        In the book and film The Railway Children, a landslip plays a central role. Still, with all those coal fired steam engines polluting the air, what else would they expect?

    • martinbrumby permalink
      August 16, 2020 8:49 pm

      You refer to the derailment following the major spoil heap failure and ground movement at Hatfield Colliery on 13 February 2013.

      I must be careful what I say, as I was made to sign a confidentiality document after this failure; after having previously prepared a Chartered Chartered Civil Engineer’s Regulation 12 Report on this spoil heap.

      But I think I can categorically say that this landslip had absolutely nothing whatever to do with the climate and that I find it very curious that Network Rail (aka You, dear taxpayer) picked up the tab for this fiasco, as whoever might have been blamed, and whatever criticism might be made of Network Rail elsewhere, they were hardly responsible for this failure, which with sheer luck, didn’t lead to any (or rather, many) deaths.

    • martinbrumby permalink
      August 16, 2020 8:51 pm

      See my comments which WordPress has kindly added some way below

      • martinbrumby permalink
        August 16, 2020 8:52 pm

        Now even further below.

  9. calnorth permalink
    August 14, 2020 11:11 am

    Severn Valley Railway knows this stuff:
    NEWS 9th August
    “Severn Valley Railway will spend thousands repairing landslip”

  10. August 14, 2020 11:17 am

    It is all about critical slope angles, water tables and land use.

  11. bobn permalink
    August 14, 2020 11:23 am

    Reminds me of the whalley Bridge Dam. Blame the weather and not the lack of maintenance. This country is cursed with incompetent self-serving uncivil servants in all these quangos. All Quangos should be scrapped, taken into direct Govt dept control or privatised. Currently they hide from all scrutiny, responsibility and accountability.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      August 16, 2020 9:39 am

      Just to repeat they’ve had 40 years of being able to blame the EU, now in the nick of time Climate Change comes galloping over the hill to save their incompetent hides.

      • Nicholas Lewis permalink
        August 16, 2020 10:44 am

        Not forgetting Covid providing perfect air cover

  12. Dan permalink
    August 14, 2020 11:31 am

    This follows the two fatalities at port talbot in July 2019. From the report

    Immediate cause
    A2.1. The immediate cause of the accident was track staff working on a line open to
    traffic without a safe system of work in place and, as a result, they were not warned
    of a train approaching them (see section G1 of this report).

    Network rail seem to be deficient on the topic of safety and I would hope the HSE prosecute the CEO.

  13. johnbillscott permalink
    August 14, 2020 12:26 pm

    Just maybe the “climate” of management incompetence is the root cause of this accident.

    Do the people running this operation have the knowledge to do their job properly? Are they “railway” men or just the usual carpetbaggers of politically connected lawyers, bean counters and their ilk operating well above their level of competence.

    Rain is so unusual in s Scotland it was obviously a freak occurrence. There is a technological solution for vulnerable sites involving the installation of sensors coupled with actual surveys by people. I noticed recently that sensors for earthquake warnings are used in Japan with direct links to the bullet trains so that they can stop before a seismic event.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      August 14, 2020 2:46 pm

      John, I try to put myself in the shoes of the maintenance manager responsible for this bit of track. Let’s assume he is a diligent chap and wants to make sure the track is safe. He notes that heavy rain has given him problems in the past and wonders how long before an embankment is washed away, I then wonder what response he will get if he dares to ask for a budget to reinforce the embankments so as to prevent a disaster.
      The problem is, if you prevent a disaster no-one will ever no if what you did saved the day or if there was never a chance of it happening in the first place. Preventive Maintenance was always a pig the justify.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        August 14, 2020 3:21 pm

        Please know, it was a no-no and should have been know. No?

      • Russ Wood permalink
        August 16, 2020 3:15 pm

        The South African electricity monopoly ESKOM managed to more-or-less ignore preventative maintenance for the first 20 or so years of majority rule. So now we have lots of “unplanned breakdowns”, often phrased as “generator trips” – which lead to “load shedding” or rolling blackouts. Some politician called “planned maintenance” a “European attitude”. Yes, well…
        O/T – the first time I experienced a ‘rolling’ blackout was in the UK power station workers strike in 1972. I was working in a fairly old Government computer centre at the time, and lo! the sound of snapping tapes was great in the land! All the tape drives on all FOUR computers lost their vacuum while spinning.

  14. C Lynch permalink
    August 14, 2020 12:42 pm

    The cat had kittens – it must be climate change.

  15. Malcolm Skipper permalink
    August 14, 2020 1:04 pm

    Radio 4 News at One interviewed some official: “dry weather, extreme rain, knowing more about soil than the Victorians, climate change, reviews, upgrading etc”. My comment to my wife, why not ask the Japanese who run their railways to the second and cope with annual monsoons, landslips and regular earthquake tremors.

  16. August 14, 2020 1:38 pm

    Oh, I don’t know about all this, The Guardian has told us and we must believe!

  17. Ben Vorlich permalink
    August 14, 2020 1:43 pm

    Climate Change will replace the EU as the scapegoat for this sort of thing in future. I can remember extreme events like this when I was resident in Perthshire, including all night storms with sides of hills washed away.

  18. Matelot 65 permalink
    August 14, 2020 2:04 pm

    Did someone cut down trees on the embankments to prevent the “wrong type of leaves” and destabilise the banks?

  19. Smoke&Mirrors permalink
    August 14, 2020 2:06 pm

    Infrastructure failures and their consequences are ALWAYS asset management failures. ALWAYS. No ifs. No buts.

  20. Athelstan. permalink
    August 14, 2020 2:43 pm

    it is an easy out – blaming the weather and even tagging it to a chimera.

    Speculating, unsound maintenance is possibly the likely problem. Properly maintaining track bed right up to standard depends on dedicated teams of clued up track maintaince gangs of engineers and skilled observers – it ain’t easy Dad used to know a senior ‘hands on’ BR engineer, he explained it, that, It is painstaking quite boring work and vital – absolutely vital. Slopes of mud and clay are unstable – they need to be regularly monitored, water seepage, soil slumping is a common occurence – on all slopes and part of the regular toils of track maintenance teams – it’s no mystery.

    • bobn permalink
      August 14, 2020 3:59 pm

      No money for track maintenance – they’ve spent their £billions on electrification.

      • Athelstan. permalink
        August 15, 2020 11:10 am

        false economy – imo.

        electrification is fine and dandy but not much good without well maintained track.

  21. Gerry, England permalink
    August 14, 2020 2:54 pm

    Trees! And not as said above. My line had a landslide in 2014 before I moved here and although it was sheet piled it became clear towards the end of last year that more work was to be undertaken on this embankment. This was ongoing when the virus struck. Additional sheet piling was being put in further back than what was there and for a longer length. Interestingly the piling work was causing movement of the track as some wobbles appeared. the Redhill – Tonbridge line suffered a landslide near me in December and then my line suffered a landslide south of me as well. They had put in sensors and detected the movement and closed the line. In both cases the repairs were done with terracing and not piling because of the vibration.

    These lines were built in the late 1800s and so had been there for a century or more so why the problems. When built there were no trees and with steam trains the banks were kept clear. In terms of weight, a steam loco must give more stress than today’s aircraft style lightweight rolling stock. With the end end of steam the banks were allowed to grow up bringing us the infamous leaves on the line problem. But with trees in place the grass has gone and is this why there are more problems with embankments and cuttings than there used to be? A false economy of reduced maintenance.

    • JBW permalink
      August 15, 2020 11:15 am

      No need to cut the trees back when there are no steam engines to throw hot embers around and start fires. So now we suffer from the unintended consequences of such cheapskate actions.

  22. LeedsChris permalink
    August 14, 2020 3:17 pm

    Presumably they must have forgotten the far worse rain and floods that struck east and south east Scotland in August 1948. After a baking heatwave at the end of July – the start of the London Olympics – the weather turned thundery (sound familiar?) as thunderstorms worked up the east side of the country. On the occasion 91mm of rain fell in Midlothian on 7th August and on 12th (24 hours total) 158 mm fell at Kelso. On that occasion there was devastating flooding in the Tweed valley and railway bridges north of Berwick were washed away. At Kelso the Tweed reached its highest since 1831. In total seven railway bridges were swept away over the river Eye, five bridges over the Blackadder and most bridges destroyed or damaged over the Whiteadder. Landslides blocked many roads and rail lines and soil stained the sea 2 miles offshore. Hundreds of acres of land were covered in 2 m of water. It took months for the area to get back to normal and train services were also disrupted for two months. Similar floods occurred in September 1841 and in the 1890s and 1910.

  23. EyeSee permalink
    August 14, 2020 3:29 pm

    If the Nitwit Rail wuckfit is so incredibly woke and Climate aware, why wasn’t his company making safe all these areas that would be affected by the increase in extreme weather? Could it be that he is as aware as anyone that Climate Change is a chimera and you might as well believe in fairies and pixies. (Of course, many ‘graduates’ do…..)

  24. August 14, 2020 4:09 pm

    So when they were warned in 2016 presumably they just kept their fingers crossed. Much easier now to blame climate change

  25. CheshireRed permalink
    August 14, 2020 4:35 pm

    We all know the BBC’s game here even before they play it.

    EVERY unusual ‘weather-related’ event is attributed to ‘climate change’ as a matter of course. None are ever explicitly blamed on it, but the trick is in the linking, the repeated inferring.

    It’s smear by unfounded implication, which while being impossible to prove – hence they don’t try, is also impossible to disprove. When nothing unusual happens, including extended periods of utterly benign weather….tumbleweed.

    My protest to their propaganda is easy to prove though: I don’t pay their absurd tax.

    • August 14, 2020 4:46 pm

      BBC is ramping up its rail crash propaganda effort…

      Are we doing enough to modernise infrastructure with a changing climate?
      By Kevin Keane
      BBC Scotland’s environment correspondent
      2 hours ago

      The climate is changing and scientists agree it’s very different to when the railways were built by our Victorian ancestors.

      Though landslips are not uncommon, particularly in that area around Stonehaven, climate change means they are happening much more frequently as the land struggles to cope with the volume of water.

      • jack broughton permalink
        August 14, 2020 5:05 pm

        Is he really saying that “the Victorian engineers knew how to run the drainage off land, but we don’t”? He can certainly not justify this in terms of weather or climate-change and ought to be called to task for trying to pass the buck.

      • CheshireRed permalink
        August 15, 2020 9:17 am

        ‘Landslips are happening much more frequently’.
        That’s an assertion worthy of further examination.

      • August 16, 2020 1:43 pm

        ‘Landslips are happening much more frequently’.
        Network Rail don’t seem to have heard the ‘news’.

  26. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 14, 2020 5:19 pm

    Did they blame climate change in the The Railway Children?

    I wonder if any embankment clearing has been going on there in recent years – could easily destabilize it.

    All man-made earthworks are liable to fail anyway, as they are artificially steep and not how nature would choose to arrange things.

    The issue of climate change is completely irrelevant. Any effect of winter rainfall would have exposed any shortcomings that should have been found during inspections already if they existed, and saturated ground would have long since dried out. There is also nothing unusual about thunderstorms causing flash flooding as a summer warm spell breaks down. They have always occurred and always will. Embankments should be able to cope if they have been adequately designed and maintained and inspected.

    14th Aug 71

  27. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 14, 2020 5:48 pm

    There’s clearly a correlation with heavy rainfall at times, but you’d be hard-pressed to declare a noticeable increase in landslides in Scotland over all in recent years.

  28. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 14, 2020 6:52 pm

    Paul, may be of interest. I have seen some big rainfall changes claimed for Scotland (all suspiciously “since 1961”) in various government documents – claimed to be sourced from doc. below. Too long for my attention span! But this is apparently the Scottish ‘climate change bible’.


  29. Subseaeng permalink
    August 14, 2020 7:53 pm

    When I was at school in the West of Scotland during the 1960’s we were taught that the driest areas in the UK were the South East, East Anglia and Aberdeenshire in that order. If that is really the case then of course heavy thundery rain could cause problems for embankments and cuttings (Ref Gerry’s comments above which are also local to me). However being the sceptic that I am, I suspect a distinct lack of maintenance of infrastructure could be a cause just like lack of drainage maintenance on our roads. Whatever it is/was it doesn’t take away from the sadness of the event.

  30. August 14, 2020 8:21 pm

    August 1829

    In Stonehaven the houses in Cameron Street, Arbuthnot Street, Ann Street, and part of Barclay Street were inundated to the depth of many feet. Many of the inhabitants only received the first intimation of their perilous situation by the water coming in contact with their warm beds. Two wooden bridges over the Carron were swept down the stream.

    August 1958

    The Mearns Leader described how heavy rain at the start of August had lead to a hurried evacuation of the Mill Lade campsite due to flooding from the Cowie and rainwater, and that “Householders near the lower reaches of the Carron, which was also running high, took precautions against the flooding of their properties”. At the end of the month there was a further flood event on the Cowie, and landslides at the Bervie Braes, although no mention of flooding from the Carron was made.

    Aberdeenshire Council Appendix A: Stonehaven December 2012 Flood Event Review

  31. Ian Travers permalink
    August 14, 2020 8:50 pm

    A landslip near Harbury Tunnel in Warwickshire in February 2014 was well reported at the time, eg
    There’s plenty of detail of root causes and remedial work carried out to be found in engineers’ reports on the internet, for anyone interested. I don’t recall any mention of CC in anything I read at the time, but it was pre-Greta and XR…

  32. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 14, 2020 8:54 pm

    Some interesting views here until the inevitable!

    • August 14, 2020 10:10 pm

      yes that’s not a bad good piece until the inevitable. Drought followed by heavy rain [*coughs* September 1976 *coughs* April 2012 *coughs*] … who would have thought that was unusual?

      From 2015

      Just a year ago, Texas and Oklahoma were experiencing a crippling drought. In May, record rainfall and deadly floods swept through these recently parched states, with devastating results. It was the same story in Australia in 2010: two years of record floods followed a decade-long record-breaking drought.

  33. Dave Cowdell permalink
    August 15, 2020 8:37 am

    Err nope again. The area is prone to landslides and slope instability and indeed the Bervie Braes road had been closed for about 4 years until extensive slope remediation works had been completed. I had been there installing pore pressure instrumentation and alarm systems as part of the slope monitoring scheme.
    The slopes prone to instability would have been identified by Scotrail, and even if potentially dangerous slopes could not be remediated, it is not difficult or particularly expensive to put in an effective monitoring and alarm system to warn of incipient slope failure.

  34. August 15, 2020 12:36 pm

    About Event Attribution Analysis.

  35. Nicholas Lewis permalink
    August 15, 2020 10:53 pm

    This is a tragic accident but to blame it on climate change is making political capital. What we have here is an unfortunate set of circumstances initiated by a spell of heavy rail that happened to occur in the wrong place at the wrong time. In part I believe the reaction is driven by the fact the rail industry has achieved such exceptional levels of safety, after a poor track record in the 80’s & 90’s, that they can’t accept that this happened.

    If the blame is shifted to climate change the repercussions are going to manifest themselves in a railway that becomes further undependable when theres weather forecast. It already imposes draconian speed restrictions and service curtailments when there is sniff of snow or wind are we now adding rain?

    The railways remain super safe theres is always more that can be done but we mustn’t lose sight the balance between ‘as low as reasonable practical’ and no risk.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      August 15, 2020 11:12 pm

      There may be an attempt to deflect blame. As we know the train was turned around because of one line problem, at a time when the rail company was apparently live-streaming/posting about the conditions on the lines in the area. One might consider it was negligent to allow the train to move further at all.

      • Nicholas Lewis permalink
        August 15, 2020 11:31 pm

        That was known problem that resulted in the train returning back to Aberdeen past the site of the derailment so the driver would have had situational awareness that there had been no issues when he had past it earlier. Its standard operating procedure to get drivers to examine the line at caution when there have been reported issues and for sure i can see under what conditions this being invoked being reviewed. However, if there was no evidence of running water/mud onto the railway they would have returned to line speed only for a subsequent washout to occur.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        August 16, 2020 10:13 am

        There definitely was significant evidence of widespread flooding and flowing water on the tracks, the whole point of my post – obviously it was a dynamic and rapidly changing situation – failures tend to happen suddenly in these conditions. He was switched to a different line at Carmont for the journey back to Aberdeen. I’m not familiar with the track layout but it may not have been possible or he may just not have noticed problems on a different track on the outward bound. On the first views from the scene vast lengths of the track were only just visible visible through mud and water – you could not see the ballast etc.

  36. matelot 65 permalink
    August 16, 2020 10:25 am

    The driver was obviously in contact with his controller, and, as I understand it was returning to the previous station having encountered a major track problem. Why was the train travelling fast enough to derail in such a spectacular fashion. Surely the driver would have been told to proceed with caution? If not, are there recordings on the controller / driver conversations? I would hate to see the blame placed on the train crew (RIP both of them) if the blame is, once again, in the hands of a desk jockey?

  37. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 16, 2020 10:33 am

    It looks like the indicated landslip that caused the derailment is very small, not much more than earth etc. washed onto the tracks. These tracks were covered in water and it’s unlikely the driver could distinguish the soil pile from the rest of the flooded track.

    Like I said, if you ask me, the bosses failed to make a critical safety decision(s) in the circumstances and are looking to deflect blame.

    • Nicholas Lewis permalink
      August 16, 2020 11:33 am

      They did make a safety critical decision initially as the train was stopped whilst travelling south by radio message from the signaller due a identified landslide. The train was then reversed to Carmont and crossed over to gain the normal line to return back to Aberdeen. The investigation will want to know what communication took place between Carmont signaller and the driver and whether Carmont signaller was advised by Control to provide an instruction to examine the line at caution (20mph). An HST power car will get through mud over the rails but if larger rocks were carried down they could be sufficient to derail the lead vehicle and then its a matter of whether the wheels end up on the outside of the rails or the inside. im surmising they ended up on the outside and this resulted in a contact with the bridge parapet leading to quick deceleration but with the rest of the train behind still pushing into it this caused the the vehicles to all go in different directions.

      Recent drone footage

      The investigation im sure will look into how dynamic assessments of how weather impacts are managed but Network Rail are generally cautious (too much in my view but thats not for here) and when it comes to snow and wind forecasts in reducing services and imposing route wide speed restrictions and Scotland has far more frequent events to not have this response in there DNA. That said there were numerous incidents in progress so its possible communication was becoming diluted/delayed. Unless earthworks have a history of problems they won’t be on direct monitoring and thus early warning of an issue is generally from train drivers reporting flowing water and/or mudslides. As soon as these are reported cautionary running will be imposed for all subsequent train movements until staff can attend site and inspect.

      To keep to the theme of the blog are we seeing rainfall events of greater intensity than ever recorded before me thinks not. Are we seeing more rainfall events per se me thinks not. This is a tragic set of circumstances – heavy rainfall, causing mudslide, derailing train onto the wrong side of rails at the killer issue just before the overbridge. Like many railway accidents before this a set of random events highlights potential areas that will need improvements but I suspect we ill now see another draconian response that bares no relationship to the risk involved that will make the railway safer but less dependable. That results in people choosing to use there cars which are a whole lot more risky What we need is an holistic approach here.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        August 17, 2020 10:23 am

        You’re just going over what we already know (or don’t!). My point was about blaming climate change to shift blame from management. Again, It has been said Network Rail was posting/streaming live footage of the conditions on the local railway as the crash occurred. Some of it here:-

        Given the conditions shown there should have been an immediate decision to halt all movements immediately. In all the aftermath pictures/video the flash flooding had already gone.

      • Nicholas Lewis permalink
        August 17, 2020 12:34 pm

        If there had been sustained rainfall over a long period of time leading to ground saturation then the risk would have been a lot higher and more cautionary running should be imposed.. What we had here was a localised rainfall event that could occur anywhere. If we end up reacting to every low probability event with placing restrictions on movements you will end up with a service that is not dependable and thus drive people off it onto less safe modes of transport. No one ever takes the holistic approach is my argument.

  38. john cooknell permalink
    August 16, 2020 8:05 pm

    This is a nice picture, showing effects of climate change on the Railways in 1894.—Floods-going-down-after-closing-the-line-3-days

  39. Gamecock permalink
    August 17, 2020 3:22 pm

    Did Climate Change Play A Role?

    First, define ‘Climate Change.’

    “If you wish to converse with me, define your terms.” – Voltaire

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