RAIB investigating security of containers in high winds
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is investigating an incident in which a freight container was blown from a train.
It occurred on 31 March and involved the 11.21 GB Railfreight service from Felixstowe South to Doncaster Railport. The train was travelling on the Great Northern Great Eastern (GNGE) route from Peterborough towards Spalding when the container blew off at approximately 15.22, with the train near to Deeping St Nicholas. The incident took place at a time of high cross winds.
The container became caught up with the train and was dragged a short distance before coming to rest on the adjacent track. The train continued for approximately 250 metres before being brought to a stand by the train’s automatic brake, which was applied when the container struck the handbrake handwheels of several wagons and damaged a safety mechanism. Significant damage was caused to the infrastructure, including a trackside telecommunications cabinet, sleepers, rail fixings and axle counter heads. Although no trains were passing at the time of the incident, RAIB reports that a freight train had passed on the adjacent line about five minutes beforehand.
The FEA(S) wagon was fitted with UIC spigots on which the container was mounted, and RAIB says there is concern that inwardly hinging spigots (as used on these wagons) are unable to resist overturning forces experienced in strong winds.
Following reports into similar incidents at Hardendale and Cheddington in 2008, GBRf agreed to impose a maximum speed of 60mph for trains carrying empty containers on FEA(S) wagons when wind speeds of between 56 and 65mph are forecast; when wind speeds exceed 65mph the operator will remove the containers altogether. With a forecast for strong winds on the day of the incident, GBRf had applied the 60mph limit to the train’s journey. In the event, an average wind speed of 54mph was recorded at nearby weather stations but there may have been higher localised gusts at the time of the incident. The train was only travelling at 38mph when the container fell from the wagon.
The incident follows a similar event at Scout Green, Cumbria on 7 March 2015, which is also being investigated. On 2 April Network Rail instructed freight operators to ensure empty containers are mechanically locked to wagons with spigots which do not meet the UIC standard until the investigations into both incidents are completed.