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Network Rail Blame Climate Change For Stonehaven Tragedy

September 11, 2020

By Paul Homewood


Network Rail’s interim report into the Stonehaven crash has just been published:




While not exactly blaming it on climate change, the message is loud and clear :




As we shall go on to see, they present little evidence that this is the case.

But first to the accident itself. We learn that50mm of rain fell in the area that day:


As I noted at the time, falls of 50mm are not an unusual event in that part of Scotland, such as Dyce in Aberdeen.


Rainfall across Eastern Scotland averaged out at 14.79mm that day, an insignificant amount in comparison to historical data.

time series

It is abundantly clear therefore that the weather that day was far from unprecedented, and should not have overwhelmed Network Rail’s safety systems.


The report then goes on to purport to show that an increasing number of earthwork failures is connected to higher monthly rainfall since 2003, when proper records began to be kept on failures.


However, look closely and you will see that the top graph is not actual rainfall, but the percentage of the long term average. Quite what relevance this has, I have not got a clue. Clearly it is the AMOUNT of rain which causes problems, not the ANOMALY!


Clearly the chart is intended to mislead, by exaggerating rainfall in February 2020, which, although a record for the month, was not particularly high in comparison with all months.


When we plug in the actual rainfall data, Feb 2020 is no higher than several other months since 2003, and the rainfall clearly cannot explain the sharp spike in earthwork failures. This is not to say that rainfall is not the key factor, which it clearly is; simply that failures were far fewer in earlier years with similar or more rainfall.




On the following page, there is a table, which tends to contradict the chart. It confirms that there has been no trend at all in earthwork failures until this year.



Section 4 deals with climate change, but the only evidence for their claim comes from GIGO climate modelling and attribution studies:



Of course, the actual data does not support their assertions. For instance drier summers:

Or extreme rainfall:






It would be shocking if the Network Rail were allowed to cover up their failings by blaming Stonehaven on climate change.

I’ll leave you with one final thought.

Network Rail was formed in 2002, since when, according to their graph, earthwork failures have become progressively worse. Some unkind observers might think the two things are connected!

  1. Geoff B permalink
    September 11, 2020 6:40 pm

    Lack of maintenance, so issue a whitewash report hoping they get away with it. Just like Whaley Bridge when Todd brook dam failure was blamed on rain, when the full independent report said it was badly designed and poorly maintained.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      September 11, 2020 8:02 pm

      Quite right, Geoff. Maintenance procedures should be tailored to the existing conditions PLUS. It is a dereliction of duty to fob it off on a phantom third party. (Oh hell! It was a ghost!!! Don’t you believe me?)

    • mjr permalink
      September 12, 2020 10:33 am

      similar to the continuous media reports on USA pacific coast and Australian fires. Due to poor maintenance (not clearing undergrowth, no controlled burns) and not weather related. .

      Also, tomorrow we have the pleasure of the increasingly senile Attenborough preaching to us. BBC programme about animal diversity and mass extinctions. A valid topic if it concentrates on loss of habitat, poaching and other human interventions. But already on Breakfast tv today Charlie Smugbastard and interviewee doing a preamble / promo review for tomorrow (the promo and web page done by one of our favourite climate scientists Justin Rowlatt ) the preamble has included references to climate change, warming and CO2) so the usual bullsh*t will be included.

      • Lez permalink
        September 12, 2020 8:30 pm

        I’ve just finished watching a most absorbing programme on the Yesterday channel entitled ‘Russia from above’.
        It beautifully illustrates the timeless climate extremes across Russia.
        No references to climate change. Untainted by BBC bedwetters.
        Recommended watching.

  2. 2hmp permalink
    September 11, 2020 6:46 pm

    If you can find an excuse which the public believe, then you are seen to be an honest man if you don’t use it. But they have used it – QED.

  3. Gamecock permalink
    September 11, 2020 6:54 pm

    ‘I welcome the work setting out the challenges in adapting our rail infrastructure to cope with increasing extreme weather events caused by climate change.’

    Climate change cannot be a cause. It is a result.

  4. September 11, 2020 6:55 pm

    The union is also blaming climate change. Geoff B is right – as with roads etc., it’s lack of maintenance but easier to blame the climate. Blame everything on the climate, so convenient.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      September 11, 2020 8:08 pm

      If the government had sphericals they would make any responsible department which argues that CC was responsible to prove it. (heehee – would like to see them do it)

  5. markl permalink
    September 11, 2020 6:59 pm

    Climate Change, the world’s new boogeyman supported by the MSM.

  6. MrGrimNasty permalink
    September 11, 2020 7:02 pm

    As I posted before, generally in Scotland over the last decade there appears to be (as you would expect) correlation between landslides and rain, but no obvious increasing trend in either – whereas 10 years is too short a period to judge, Network rail cannot really claim anything much has changed in that time, and if ‘climate change’ was such a clear and present danger, why are they only realizing it now!

    The inquiry should be looking at the decision to move the train and the speed being appropriate (or not) for the conditions at the time, if you ask me.

    • September 11, 2020 10:02 pm

      This is the Government inquiry. The Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB) have yet to publish their full findings. Funny that the government has seen fit to jump the gun on one of the most respected rail safety organisations in the world. There was an excellent review of the accident in Rail magazine, where the writer pointed out that Britains railways were laid out during the Victorian era when the requirements for drainage, cutting slope and so on were less stringent. Couple that with the change in land use – less trees so more run-off, and you have your answer. My bet is that the RAIB report will not mention climate change. We shall see.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        September 12, 2020 10:34 am

        Thankyou, lets hope!

    • Smoke&Mirrors permalink
      September 12, 2020 11:07 am

      Your final sentence is spot on. At a gentle and prudent 20 – 40mph, there would have been no story apart from a train being stuck for a second time.
      Railways are a total system – not just infrastructure or trains, but human behaviour and communications.
      Was it really wise to open the throttle and charge off into the unknown?
      Was is really wise not to have, at least, exchanged views about whether the line ahead could have been obstructed bearing in mind the weather at the time?

      • September 12, 2020 3:49 pm

        In the interim RAIB report there was no mention of the speed of the train as it approached the landslide. The full RAIB report has not yet been published. How do you know hat the speed of the train was?

      • Nicholas Lewis permalink
        September 12, 2020 5:18 pm

        RAIB reported train had attained a speed 72.8mph although it doesn’t say what the speed was at point of derailment but as it was on a LH curve within a steep cutting sighting of the debris wouldn’t have left much distance for braking to take effect.

        “At 09:25 hrs train 1T08 was given permission to start moving north, and was routed over a crossover at Carmont onto the down line. The signaller at Carmont cleared the signal for the train to proceed to Stonehaven, and the train continued north, passing over the crossover at 5 mph (8 km/h) at 09:36 hrs. Its speed increased, reaching 72.8 mph (117.1 km/h) after it had travelled for approximately 1.4 miles (2.25 km), which is within the maximum permitted speed for HSTs of 75 mph (120 km/h) on this stretch of line”

      • September 12, 2020 6:41 pm

        Thank you. I missed that when reading the report – my apologies!

      • Smoke&Mirrors permalink
        September 12, 2020 4:16 pm

        Reported by the bbc, so it must be true:

        “An initial report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch said the train was travelling within the speed limit.
        The RAIB said it reached 72.8 mph (117.1 km/h) and this was “within the maximum permitted of 75 mph (120 km/h) on this stretch of line”.

      • Smoke&Mirrors permalink
        September 12, 2020 4:22 pm
        (May have posted twice. Sorry if so.)

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        September 12, 2020 7:37 pm

        What made this all the more extraordinary was that it appeared that Network Rail was posting videos of the state of the track in the locality around or before the time the train was sent back.

        It’s impossible to expect rail infrastructure to never fail, but this accident wasn’t caused by such a failure, it was caused by decisions made in the circumstances.

        That makes any attempt to blame climate change just a distraction.

  7. Subseaeng permalink
    September 11, 2020 7:34 pm

    In relation to rainfall we were always taught at school (Scotland in 60’s/70’s) that the Aberdeenshire area was the third driest area in the UK after East Anglia and South East England. Notwithstanding that surely if climate change and these extreme events are real and have been happening since well before 2003 (I don’t buy it myself) then Network Rail must be culpable in not planning and maintaining the network to withstand such changes. Not much “mea culpa” in that report I am sure. It would be nice to see someone taking them to task publicly, but as the MSM have swallowed the CC argument it won’t happen. I despair for us all.

  8. dearieme permalink
    September 11, 2020 8:23 pm

    Please, Miss, it was bad boys from Kinlochleven.

  9. JCalvertN permalink
    September 11, 2020 9:00 pm

    The failure was due to a poorly designed and installed drain. I don’t think it has yet been revealed who designed and installed the drain, but I suspect it was Network Rail themselves.

  10. Nicholas Lewis permalink
    September 11, 2020 9:04 pm

    Whilst i generally agree with your assessment no one actually knows the intensity of the ranfall or duration in the vicinity of the derailment as the measuring station was 25miles North so im not sure using a daily average as a comparator is realistic. What we do know is that localised intense rainfall events are a product of the randomness of weather and drainage systems are designed to cope with a 1 in 50 or worse event but will be overcome if exceeded but you have to design for something.

    Washouts like this do occur and trains get derailed but in this case it derailed to the left then hit the bridge parapet which was only a few hundreds down the line and this turned it into a catastrophe. Had it not been for that bridge the outcome would have been different, had the rainfall event occurred a few miles in a different direction it wouldn’t have happened. Also be interesting to see RAIBs view on what caused the fire and why fire suppression system wasn’t able to contain it.

    So I agree blaming it on climate change is wrong its just weather and its really about how the railway should operate in adverse conditions especially if the infrastructure is at risk due to its age and design. NR have confirmed in the report they have tightened up operating procedures in how to manage the network under adverse weather events is potentially an acknowledgement that perhaps the driver should have been issued with precautionary instructions.

  11. Pancho Plail permalink
    September 11, 2020 9:41 pm

    The wailing about climate change and more extreme weather events has been going on for decades. If you subscribe to those views (I don’t) then surely you have a duty to plan for the consequences of those events. Using these (expected) events as an excuse is surely a dereliction of duty

    • Broadlands permalink
      September 12, 2020 12:57 am

      Pancho… Yes! You nailed it. And that is exactly what should be done about “global warming”, instead of trying to prevent it with absurd carbon capture and store technologies that cannot even store one ppm of CO2. Planning for the consequences means adapting. It will be necessary regardless of what we do collectively.

  12. David permalink
    September 11, 2020 9:52 pm

    So we can assume that as soon as there is a hint of a shower in future, all services will be cancelled and the drivers will go home on full pay.

    • Nicholas Lewis permalink
      September 11, 2020 9:57 pm

      Well that happens when the wind blows (ok quite alot) but certainly doesn’t take much snow for them to call it a day so add heavy rain onto the list now. Thing is we’ve come to expect a railway thats bulletproof and that requires being risk adverse as well as spending lots of money. Not sure what has happened to ALARP (As Low as Reasonably Practical) anymore

      • mjr permalink
        September 12, 2020 10:37 am

        ah.. but it is only the wrong sort of snow . And dont forget the leaves that every year seem to fall of trees to everyones surprise.. But seriously, if that is a problem network rail can prune the trees….

  13. john cooknell permalink
    September 11, 2020 10:00 pm

    As has already been pointed out that inadequate drainage probably caused the landslip.

    I would imagine the 18 inch plastic drain was installed to try and rectify a land stability problem on the embankment that had probably failed before. The track was constructed for much lower speed Victorian Trains, most embankments and cuttings were cut by hand, the cutting waste material, whether suitable or not ,was used to make the embankment, very little was done to consolidate or re-inforce the works. They fail all the time!

    But after Toddbridge Reservoir I cannot be bothered to track this through as even when this is pointed out the AGW twits just go on and on.

    • Nicholas Lewis permalink
      September 11, 2020 10:39 pm

      If you look at RAIB report they give a bit more detail of the drainage system. I suspect it became blocked and overloaded and water then came out via the upper access chamber and poured down the cutting face eroding material. There could be an unintended outcome here in that vast volumes of water are now focused in one spot by putting this drain in?

      Ultimately though as Pancho Pail rightly concurs that if the organisation acknowledges that extreme weather events are a real and present risk then it should have appropriate mitigation plans in place be they in a physical or procedural form.

  14. September 12, 2020 1:35 am

    Climate change considerations are being embedded in our standards and planning. Also embedded are new policies to ensure that our staff don’t walk under ladders or break mirrors. Praise the Lord and pass the budget.

  15. col1664 permalink
    September 12, 2020 7:52 am

    Slightly off topic but related. On the railway, Emergency Speed Restrictions ESR’s are imposed when a track defect is reported and the details (line, exact location, max. speed etc) would be put in the ‘Late Notice Case’ at the depot and which drivers’ were to check when signing on duty.
    I was a train driver on Great Eastern in 2000 when the Hatfield rail crash occurred due to a broken rail and on that day there were one, maybe two such restrictions on the lines my depot worked over.
    The day after the crash, 46 were posted, so Railtrack (for it was they) knew the locations where the track was ‘less than optimal’ and some places we had been travelling over at 100mph the day before were now restricted to 20 mph.

  16. Ben Vorlich permalink
    September 12, 2020 8:53 am

    Before Brexit these things always included “bigger boys in Brussels made us do it and ran away”. Now poor old Climate Change takes sole responsibility.

  17. Mad Mike permalink
    September 12, 2020 10:21 am

    NR says the country will need 4500 new trains and extensive electrification to meet zero emissions targets by 2050. That includes up to 200 battery and hydrogen powered trains. Battery powered???? Thats another £30 bn for the taxpayer to find. And so it goes on.

    It used to be that £30 bn would be a huge chunk but, by the way this government is chucking money around, it probably won’t be noticed. Maybe this is part of the new green jobs so often talked about with relish.

  18. Devoncamel permalink
    September 12, 2020 10:38 am

    A bad worker blames his tools.

  19. Harry Passfield permalink
    September 12, 2020 10:42 am

    So now we know: the difference between an excuse and a reason is Climate Change.

  20. September 12, 2020 12:20 pm

    Yesterday climate change was causing increased rain resulting in train accident. Today climate change is causing drought in same area. I’m confused

  21. C Lynch permalink
    September 13, 2020 1:19 pm

    It’s not hard to see why so many people in administrative and political positions wholeheartedly endorse the CAGW theory.
    It presents a wonderful smokescreen to conceal their incompetence and laziness.

  22. dennisambler permalink
    September 13, 2020 1:53 pm

    weather over two years shows a clear trend of increasing drier weather followed by increasing wet weather. So it was dry one year and wet the next. They’re blowing hot and cold.

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