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  • Tony Putsman

Design Changes Lead To Rail Fatalities

Hard on the heels of our last post ‘Are We Sure That What We Design Gets Built Correctly?', a report from the Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB) has identified ‘botched earthworks’ as the main cause of the derailment of a passenger train at Stonehaven, between Aberdeen and Dundee, following extreme rainfall on 12th August 2020, which led to the deaths of three people.

The RAIB investigation found that a drain consisting of a perforated pipe and gravel trench fill, had been poorly constructed, and an un-designed earth bund had been added which materially affected the flow of rainwater. Unable to cope with the heavy rainfall , the drain failed, allowing aggregates to wash onto the track causing the derailment, in which the driver, conductor and a passenger lost their lives.

The report states "The company that was contracted to construct the drain, Carillion, did not undertake construction in accordance with the designer’s requirements. According to the report, other differences between the original design and the installed drainage system did not contribute to the accident, but were evidence of an absence of control of construction changes".

The RAIB said there was no evidence to suggest these changes were referred to the designers, Arup, for consideration.

The lack of integrated team working is a common feature across all sectors of construction, and this incident illustrates the risk of making design changes ‘on the hoof’.

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