Posts Tagged ‘DB Schenker’

Stewarton derailment

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Some questions that should be asked


Derailed wagon and collapsed bridge near Stewarton, Ayrshire. Still from BBC video

(Click on picture to view video on BBC ‘News Channel’)

A massive oil tanker train fire, with flames shooting 50ft into the air and dark smoke obscuring the sky, greeted residents on Tuesday morning in Stewarton, Ayrshire. The accident scene, more reminiscent of railway disasters in the Ukraine or Byellorussia, occurred near a compound used by contractors who are reinstating a second track along a 5½ mile portion of the Barrhead to Kilmarnock line which was singled in the 1970s.

A DB Schenker train consisting of 10 BP rail wagons carrying heating oil and diesel from the Grangemouth refinery to the Scottish Fuels terminal in Kilmarnock caught fire today at 06.25 when the rear section became separated from the rest of the train. Six of the 10 wagons were derailed and one was alight. Four remained on the rails still attached to the locomotive. There were no casualties.

The site of the derailment coincides with an underbridge that was due to be demolished this weekend. It is very close to the start of a 5.5 mile ‘dynamic loop’ (one that allows two trains to pass without stopping) that is being installed between Stewarton and Lugton. The £20 million contract was awarded by Network Rail to Jarvis. Track works commenced in September 2008 with works on the stations due to start early in 2009. Work is scheduled to be completed by October 2009 for a half-hourly Kilmarnock – Glasgow service to start at the December timetable change.

There are as yet no official conjectures as to the cause of the accident. BTWT has some questions. Somehow we think that quite a few of these may be skipped over by the accident’s investigators:

  • Was the collapse of the underbridge the cause of the derailment or merely a consequence of it?
  • Was the underbridge weakened by any work carried out by the contractors?
  • Has an independent assessment been made as to whether railway engineering structures designed and built in the 19th C. (the collapsed bridge was built in 1870) have a sufficient margin of safety when passed over at speed by trains with 25 ton axle load trains? (In 1948 the maximum weight per axle was seventeen and a half tons on most routes and goods trains ran more slowly than contemporary ‘freight’ trains.)
  • Is today’s fragmented railway less safe than the British Railways’ vertically integrated railway?
  • Was the traditional experience based safety culture inherently safer than the current paper-based ‘box ticking’ safety regime which has replaced it?

Comments, from BTWT readers, as always very welcome.

More pictures and articles:

The Scotsman – Derailed train catches fire

The Scotsman – freight train derailment probed

scot-rail – Barrhead-Kilmarnock enhancement

PKP Cargo crisis continues

Thursday, 8 January 2009

… unions threaten general strike.


The trade union leaders’ letter

As PKP Cargo teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, railway trade union leaders held an emergency meeting in Warsaw today to plan their response. The unions have sent a letter to Cezary Garbarczyk, the Minister of Infrastructure, and Wojciech Balczun, the Chairman of PKP Cargo. The letter points out that the collapse of PKP Cargo would not only be a personal tragedy for each of the company’s 40,000 employees, but would also have grave effects on the rest of the PKP Group. The unions point out that they have not seen any rescue plan for Cargo. They are demanding an immediate meeting with the Minister and the board members of PKP Cargo. Fifteen union representatives have constituted a strike committee and warn the Minister that if their request is not granted they will organise protest action, which could even include a general strike.

PKP Cargo has been trying to persuade the railway unions to accept 5,000 redundancies without indicating how it intends to arrest the continuing decline in its revenues. The unions have extrapolated the figures shown to them by Cargo bosses and have worked out that 10,000, not 5,000 jobs are at stake. At present, Cargo employs some 40,000 people.

The above, plus the fact that Cargo are setting up some of their workshops as independent entities, would indicate that the PKP main board are trying to improve Cargo’s balance sheet prior to a sale of the company. Our betting is that the Minister will allow the rail unions to call their strike. Cargo will then be allowed to go bankrupt with the Minister blaming the unions. DB Schenker will then ‘rescue’ the company by buying up the parts that are economically sound and take on approximately one third of the present workforce. What’s the betting that Cargo will no longer be part of the PKP Group by the end of 2010?