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WCR access rights suspended


SPAD at Wootton Bassett leads NR to question safety of company’s operations

Network Rail has suspended the track access rights of charter operator and spot hire company West Coast Railways following a signal passed at danger (SPAD) incident at Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire on 7 March. NR has described the incident as the ‘most serious’ SPAD to have taken place this year.

The incident involved train 1Z67, the 16.35 charter service from Bristol Temple Meads to Southend, which passed a signal at danger on the approach to Wootton Bassett junction at around 17.25 before coming to a stand across the junction. The signal was at danger to protect the movement of a First Great Western High Speed Train from Swansea to London Paddington, which had passed over the junction around a minute before. No injuries, damage or derailment were caused by the incident. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is carrying out an investigation which will examine the factors that contributed to the SPAD.

The suspension, which took effect on 3 April, covers both charter passenger services and freight services operated by the company. Network Rail says the suspension is because the incident raises concern that WCR’s operations are ‘a threat to the safe operation of the railway’. The suspension notice raises specific concerns about the response to the incident by WCR’s senior management and the inadequacy of the company’s controls, communication and commitment to safety following a meeting between the organisations on 30 March.

NR says it ‘has had concerns about WCR’s performance of its Safety Obligations for some time’, and previously carried out a review which raised ‘some serious and significant issues’.

It has said that WCR must take a number of actions to remedy the issues raised, which should be completed by 15 May. NR says that if all actions are achieved by this date the suspension notice will be withdrawn.

WCR has said that its services will not be affected by the suspension and that it will be asking other operators to run its services while the suspension is in place.

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