Network Rail fined £6.7m after admitting health and safety failings over Stonehaven train crash that killed three in 2020

8 September 2023, 12:38

Network Rail has admitted health and safety failings over a rail crash that claimed three lives.
Network Rail has admitted health and safety failings over a rail crash that claimed three lives. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Network Rail has been fined £6.7 million after admitting health and safety failings led to a rail crash that claimed three lives.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Train driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62, died in the derailment near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, on August 12, 2020.

At the High Court in Aberdeen on Thursday, the company admitted a charge covering the period from May 1, 2011 to August 12, 2020.

It admitted failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practical, that railway workers not in its employment and members of the public travelling by train were not exposed to the "risk of serious injury and death from train derailment" as a result of failures in the construction, inspection and maintenance of drainage assets and in adverse and extreme weather planning.

The charge states that in particular, Network Rail failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that a drainage asset located off-track of the Dundee to Aberdeen railway line near Stonehaven, constructed by Carillion between May 1, 2011 and December 31, 2012, was "constructed properly" and in accordance with the design drawings.

The charge also says Network Rail failed to conduct a handover meeting with the contractors to check the drainage asset had been properly constructed and built in accordance with the design.

Sentencing Network Rail on Friday, Judge Lord Matthews reduced the fine from £10 million due to the guilty plea.

Read more: Stretch of M20 motorway heading towards ports shut down as manhunt for escaped terror suspect continues

Read more: US to send controversial uranium tank shells to Ukraine as part of $1bn package

Minute's silence held for Stonehaven crash victims

Network Rail also admitted it did not have an adequate system of training and quality assurance in place in relation to the analysis of weather forecasts, which resulted in no emergency extreme weather action teleconference being held on the morning of August 12.

Court documents outline how there was a forecast of "extreme rainfall" and reports of severe weather, landslips and flooding in Aberdeenshire and the surrounding area on the day of the crash.

The charge states Network Rail failed to impose an emergency speed restriction "in absence of current information about the integrity of the railway line and drainage assets between Montrose and Stonehaven", and failed to inform the driver that it was unsafe to drive the train at a speed of 75mph or caution him to reduce his speed.

The charge outlines how the drainage asset which had not been properly constructed failed, gravel was washed out from the drainage trench and on to the railway track, which the train struck, causing it to derail, decouple and strike a bridge parapet.

As well as the three deaths, a further six people were injured in the crash.

Network Rail admitted breaching two sections of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The company said it is determined to build upon the "significant changes" it has made since the incident, which have "helped us to manage the risk of severe weather to the network", and it has invested millions to improve the resilience of the railway.