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Workers blamed for derailment drama

PUBLISHED: 10:42 14 May 2008 | UPDATED: 21:05 07 July 2010

Rail chiefs said last night that they had already acted to improve track maintenance after it emerged that staff knew about a problem with a Norfolk level crossing five months before a derailment.

Rail chiefs said last night that they had already acted to improve track maintenance after it emerged that staff knew about a problem with a Norfolk level crossing five months before a derailment.

Morning commuters had a lucky escape about 18 months ago after a train travelling from Norwich to Cambridge hit a faulty paving block at a crossing and left the tracks.

An official report published yesterday said poor maintenance and an inadequately-fixed surface panel were to blame for the derailment where the A1075 Watton-Thetford road crosses the line at Kilverstone Heath.

Network Rail said measures to improve maintenance staff training had already been implemented and inspections of all level crossings across the country had been made since the incident.

An investigation was launched on September 12, 2006, after the 5.33am One service to Cambridge struck a raised rubber block while travelling at 87mph. The train left the rails and stopped almost 500m from the level crossing.

None of the four staff and eight passengers was hurt, and only minor damage was caused to its two carri-ages, but the busy line was closed for a day. Wayland Prison worker Jason Lange, of Thetford, suffered a whiplash injury after his car hit the panel just before the train arrived.

The report, released by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, said the Holdfast level crossing surface panel that caused the derailment had been dislodged by a lorry nine minutes earlier and had not been fitted properly.

As previously reported by the EDP, motorists had reported a problem with the crossing weeks earlier.

The report said 11 reports were made about the loose panel between April and September 12, 2006.

It added: “The panel was inadequately supported because the panels became shorter due to road traffic loading and the sleepers under the crossing were incorrectly positioned. Maintenance crews had not acted appropriately after previous reports of the panel not being secure.”

A Network Rail supervisor had decided to act 24 hours before the derailment, and it had been scheduled to close the A1075 the following week, it also emerged.

The investigation branch made 11 recommendations relating to the installation and monitoring of panel level crossings.

Network Rail had also discovered and fixed 126 defects on crossing panelling across the network as a result of the derailment. A spokes-man for the company said yesterday: “We accept and acknowledge the recommendations in the report.”

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