Rail accident on old Londonderry line prompts flood risk call

The platform at Knockmore Halt, Lisburn. US1327-533cd
The platform at Knockmore Halt, Lisburn. US1327-533cd

Northern Ireland Rail (NIR) has been told to complete a flood risk assessment on the entire railway after a train carrying passengers to Portrush on the old Belfast to Londonderry line ended up suspended over an unsupported section of track.

A report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) also recommended that the NIR develop its adverse weather procedures in order to address the risks to train operational safety, in light of the accident.

It also made a number of further safety and protocol recommendations in response to the incident, which involved a train carrying passengers to the Irish Open in Portrush on June 28, 2012.

The accident report outlined how the incident occurred at around 7.06am on June 28, 2012, whilst the 6.45am service from Belfast Great Victoria Street to Portrush, was travelling along the Antrim to Lisburn branch line.

The section of railway line was opened in 1871 and was the main line from Londonderry and Coleraine to Belfast until 2001.

According to the report: “While running along a straight section of track, the train encountered a 10 metre long section of washed out embankment over which the running rails were hanging unsupported.

“A pilotman, who was in the cab, saw the washed out embankment ahead and warned the driver who applied the train’s emergency brake.

“The train ran onto the unsupported rails and the leading vehicle came to a stand with one bogie on each side of the unsupported track.

“After a period of around 12 minutes of intense communication between the train crew, control office, signallers and managers, the driver reversed the train off the washed out embankment to a place of safety.”

No-one was injured in the incident and neither was the train damaged.

The report blamed heavy rainfall in the catchment area of the nearby Brokerstown stream on June 27, 2012, which also affected the Coca Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, which owns a bottling plant adjacent to the location of the embankment.

The authors recommended NIR complete a view of the resilience of its railway in the face of potential flooding.