Tebay rail tragedy 'could happen again' fears

A RETIRED railwayman who survived the 2004 Tebay disaster says another tragedy will happen unless workers are better protected.

Nearly eight years on from the incident, former RMT Union safety rep Thomas Angus said rail bosses had not acted on calls for more robust warning systems.

Mr Angus, 65, of Lancaster, stepped out of the way of a 16-tonne runaway wagon moments before it ploughed into and killed four of his friends in morning darkness on February 15.

It came free from its sidings and reached speeds of 40mph after travelling three miles down Shap summit.

Mr Angus, who said he was ‘mentally scarred’ by the incident, told the Gazette that rail workers were in the ‘lap of the Gods’. “Since Tebay, we have had umpteen meetings but nothing has really changed,” he said.

“I would hate to think that another Tebay accident happens today after we have been fighting for eight years.”

Mr Angus said preventing another disaster was dependent on ‘look-outs’ warning fellow workers of approaching dangers.

Both he and the RMT Union want a device known as a treadle – for which a prototype has been developed – to be introduced.

The treadle would be placed at the side of the track where engineers are working and would trigger a warning siren if it detected anything running away.

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Mr Angus continued: “Our men work in a safety-critical job and, if anything rolls down a gradient, there’s nothing to stop it running away.

“We have had over 70 runaways across the country since Tebay.

“Network Rail tell me they are a safety-critical company. Well, why are we still fighting for secondary protection?”

Carnforth men Colin Buckley, 49, and Darren Burgess, 30, Chris Waters, 53, of Morecambe and 46-year-old Gary Tindall, of Tebay, died in the Tebay incident.

Mr Angus was off work for six months with stress after the tragedy.

He added: “I saw them lads, they were my mates who were killed. Their families don’t have them now, which is why I’m still fighting.”

Network Rail spokesman Keith Lumley said several measures aimed at reducing runaway vehicles – which the RMT was ‘actively involved’ in – were under way.

“Safety is paramount in everything we do, which is why all the recommendations made by the Railway Safety & Standards Board following their investigation of the incident have been fully implemented,” he said.

He said Network Rail was spending £5m fitting additional disc brakes to more than 300 road rail vehicles, adding: “Our long term strategy includes the development of a new generation of road rail vehicles designed specifically for railway use.”

The Lancaster and District branch of the RMT Union is staging a commemorative meeting on Wednesday, February 15, the eighth anniversary of the accident at 11.45am at the memorial to the accident, south of Tebay, off the A685.

This week Network Rail chief executive Sir David Higgins and other senior bosses said they would give up their bonuses and use the money to improve safety.

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