Network Rail should improve its planning process after a track worker controlling site safety had to dodge an approaching train, which was travelling at 51 mph.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has called for the operator to improve how it plans works following an investigation into the near-miss close to Gatwick Airport in December last year.
The worker had to dodge the train just before it reached him between Horley and Gatwick airport while undertaking electrical conductor rail isolation works on tracks open to trains.
Isolation planning is when a section of the line is electrically isolated to allow track works to be undertaken safely.
The RAIB found that Network Rail’s isolation planning processes meant planners for Bam Nuttall, the contractor undertaking the works, didn’t have all the information needed to establish the exact location of the works.
Planners also lacked skills and experience so provided a system of work that did not include protection from train movements where the works were taking place.
The RAIB concluded that Network Rail’s current isolation process does not provide planners working outside of Network Rail with adequate information to successfully plan a safe systems of work.
The investigation body also recommended that Bam Nuttall improve its safe system of work planning process to ensure planners do not plan work without sufficient information to identify protection measures.
RAIB chief inspector of rail accidents Simon French explained that when engineering works take place on and around lines electrified on the conductor rail system straps are placed by workers on the conductor rail and the running rail to prevent electrical hazards.
In the Gatwick incident the straps could have been fitted at a safer alternative site but the information about this was not available to planners.
Although workers were able to place the straps safely in the first place, when removing them the next day they believed that no trains would pass by while they were doing their work.
He said: “We have previously recommended, in two recent reports, that Network Rail should improve the leadership skills of team leaders and supervisors.
“Work is being done to address this, but railway industry staff at all levels must understand the importance of good leadership: getting people to do the right thing, at the right time, all the time.”
Two track workers were killed in south Wales in July, while another died last year near Purley in south London.
In February the RAIB wrote to Network Rail to ask them to take on board recommendations made in 2017 to improve the layout and format of a notice about safety arrangements for track workers after three near miss incidents.
But Network Rail rejected the advice, telling Construction News that it believes its notices are “fit for purpose”.
Network Rail and Bam Nuttall have been contacted for comment.
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