Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Eastleigh train derailment 'due to shockingly inept maintenance'

Freight train
Image caption The line between Southampton and Basingstoke was blocked for six days

A freight train derailment, that has caused weeks of travel disruption, was caused by "shockingly inept" track maintenance, a rail engineer has said.

Six wagons came off the track at Eastleigh in January, blocking the line between Southampton and Basingstoke and damaging points equipment.

Four engineers, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the BBC the track was already damaged.

Network Rail said the fault was not visible during inspections.

It previously said initial findings showed the derailment was due to an "infrastructure fault".

Image caption The derailment damaged points equipment

One track engineer said: "The official line is that this is component failure, which is true. But it's also down to shockingly inept maintenance.

"The location has been continually flagged up as an issue for years.

"Never has the rail infrastructure in this area been in such a poor state. We're shockingly understaffed and stretched."

The derailment on 28 January caused significant damage to the track, which carries both freight and passenger trains.

A 520ft (160m) stretch of replacement temporary track was opened six days later.

Trains on the main line between Winchester and Southampton are unable to stop at Eastleigh until weeks of further repairs are completed.

Image copyright Network Rail
Image caption Network Rail said broken rail clips, like the one shown on the right, caused the derailment

On Monday, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said it had found broken "rail fastenings" at the scene.

"Initial evidence suggests that some of these were already broken before the derailment," it said.

"Consequently, as the freight train passed over the points, the rails moved apart."

Network Rail said the fastenings referred to were rail clips embedded in concrete, which would not have been fully visible during inspections.

The track operator added it was carrying out extra inspections.

"We know some staff are concerned about the general upkeep of the railway in and around Eastleigh and so we have brought in some extra staff," it said.

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