Rail workers in 'train near-miss' on Hest Bank main line

Image from the train involved in the incident Image copyright First TransPennine Express
Image caption The track workers were operating on a small bridge on the West Coast main line at Hest Bank

Nine rail workers in north Lancashire were nearly hit by an 80mph (129km/h) passenger train, accident investigators have said.

The track workers were operating on a small bridge on the West Coast main line near Hest Bank on the afternoon of 22 September.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said workers were reliant on a lookout warning of approaching trains.

But they received no advance warning that a train was nearing them.

'Immediate evasive action'

The RAIB said the workers were "forced to take immediate evasive action" because the curvature of the track restricted their view and they did not know an Edinburgh to Manchester Airport train was approaching.

"Some staff were unable to reach a safe position and pressed themselves against the bridge parapet," the RAIB said.

An investigation has been launched into the incident that happened south of Hest Bank between Carnforth and Lancaster and involved contract staff and a controller of site safety employed by Network Rail.

They were packing ballast under sleepers on the main line on a small bridge.

A lookout-operated warning system (LOWS) was being used to give warning of approaching trains.

This system is designed to allow lookouts to signal the approach of a train by operating a unit which gives both visual and audible warnings.

The RAIB said that on the afternoon of the near-miss, the LOWS equipment was being operated by two Network Rail lookouts, one on each side of the worksite and each equipped with a LOWS lookout unit.

'Operating normally'

The lookout watching for trains on the 'up' line was located about half a mile from the site of work, in a position which gave him a good view of trains approaching from the north.

The static unit - operated by remote control by the lookout - was located near the track workers, and should have warned them that a train was approaching.

The system is reported to have been both tested and operating normally prior to the incident.

The RAIB said: "Our investigation will examine the reasons why no warning was provided to the track workers.

"It will consider the sequence of events and factors that may have led to the incident, and identify any safety lessons."

It is not known when the investigation will conclude.

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