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Carmarthenshire

Report into Llangennech train crash critical of rail industry’s approach to maintenance of freight wagons

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The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has published a report into the derailment and fire of a tanker train at Llangennech in Carmarthenshire on 26 August 2020.

The report outlines a number of recommendations, with criticism of the rail industry’s approach to maintenance of freight wagons in the UK.

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At around 11.04pm on 26 August 2020 a freight train carrying 25 tankers filled with fuel from Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire travelling to Theale near Reading, derailed near Llangennech in Carmarthenshire.

The derailment and the consequent damage to the wagons resulted in a significant spillage of fuel and a major fire. The driver, who was unhurt, reported the accident to the signaller. The RAIB report says subsequent examination of the site found that ten wagons (positioned third to twelfth in the train) had derailed, and that around 446,000 litres of fuel had escaped.

The spilled fuel caused major damage to the environment in an area which is both a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and a special area of conservation (SAC), including cockle beds, natural tidal mud flats and wetlands.

Aerial view of the Llangennech derailment (Image: Network Rail)

The RAIB say the derailment occurred because one set of wheels on the third wagon in the train stopped rotating during the journey. The wheelset had become locked, probably because of a defect in the braking system on the third wagon, arising from deficiencies in the design and maintenance of components.

The sliding of the locked wheel along the railhead caused damage to the profile of the wheel treads. This meant that the wheels were unable to safely negotiate Morlais Junction, near Llangennech, damaging the pointwork and causing the third wagon to become derailed.

The following wagons derailed on the damaged track. Some of the derailed tank wagons were ruptured in the accident, and the spilling fuel ignited.

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Around 300 residents were evacuated from their homes by emergency services the night of the incident, due to the extent of the fire, which took firefighters almost two days to extinguish. 

An extensive environmental recovery operation followed, led by Natural Resources Wales. Six months later, 30,000 tonnes of fuel-soaked soil had been excavated from beneath more than 150 metres of railway track – preventing lasting environmental impact and protecting the local landscape.

The railway re-opened in March 2021, following the installation of brand-new track and signalling equipment damaged in the incident. 

The aftermath of the freight train derailment at Llangennech (Image: Network Rail)

Recommendations

RAIB has made nine recommendations. These cover a review of the actions taken by the owner of the wagons following this and previous accidents, and improvements to the maintenance processes at the locations where the wagons involved in the accident are maintained and overhauled. The probable failure mode of the braking system and the lessons learned from reconstruction tests have led to a recommendation to the manufacturer of some of the braking system components to undertake a review of their design.

A recommendation has been made to the organisations who carry out surveillance and certification of entities in charge of maintenance of rail freight vehicles to review their processes.

A further two recommendations have been made to improve the management of wagon maintenance on the railways in Great Britain, and to review the technology and systems used to alert traincrew, signallers and railway control offices to wagon defects that may lead to derailment.

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The final recommendation is for a review of the arrangements for regulatory oversight of entities in charge of maintenance and certification bodies that are not based in the UK.

The aftermath of the train derailment at Llangennech (Image: RAIB)

Simon French, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents said: “Trains carrying dangerous goods play an important role in the UK economy, but the risks which their operation presents must be adequately controlled. The consequences when things go wrong can be disastrous, as we saw at Llangennech in August 2020. Thankfully no one was hurt, but people were evacuated from their homes and the damage, both to the environment and to people’s livelihoods, will take years to put right. The accident also closed the railway line for more than six months whilst the railway was being rebuilt and engineers worked to minimise the damage to the local environment.

“The rail industry’s approach to the safe maintenance of freight wagons needs to improve. In this investigation we found that there were inadequate maintenance practices, and a failure to appreciate the importance of the correct fastening of the various components of the tanks wagons’ braking system. This is not the first time that we have investigated an accident where RAIB has identified serious issues with the maintenance of a freight train. Over the last decade we have identified deficient wagon maintenance as a factor in more than ten investigations, including maladjusted suspension, undetected frame twist and worn bogie pivot liners.

“In our report we have recommended a review of the technology and systems currently being used in the UK and other European countries to identify how improvements can be made to the railway’s ability to detect a wagon defect that may lead to a derailment, such as dragging brakes. The smarter use of track side technology to warn the railway that a train is endangering its infrastructure is a familiar RAIB theme; some of our previous investigations have urged the greater use of wheel impact load detection data to identify uneven wheel loads. RAIB would like to see more work in this area focused on how track side systems could be used to reliably detect dragging brakes, but also, how such data can be used in an intelligent way to benefit both real-time operations and fleet maintenance management.

“The majority of our recommendations following our extensive investigation of the derailment at Llangennech relate to improved maintenance processes for freight wagons. The widest ranging of these urges the freight sector, in conjunction with Network Rail, to develop a comprehensive programme of measures designed to promote the improvement of freight wagon maintenance in the UK. This is intended to be a collaborative effort, which is appropriate given the potential benefits of better information sharing across the sector.

“I would like to stress the importance of getting this right. It’s time that freight wagon maintenance practices were subject to careful examination and for the industry to think through the way that it can best deliver on its legal and moral obligation to present wagons that are fit to operate through the nation’s towns and cities. The prize for getting this right is improved safety, better reliability and compliance with the freight sector’s legal obligations – and all at a reasonable cost.

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“Since RAIB has been concerned about the quality of freight wagon maintenance for many years, I welcome the actions that ORR has taken to reinforce its supervision of entities in charge of maintenance. This will provide improved visibility of maintainers’ important work and verify the extent to which the important role of ECMs is properly understood and applied across the UK freight sector, and the adequacy of surveillance undertaken by certification bodies (whether based in the UK or in the EU).

“I have been struck by the extent to which the safe condition of freight wagons is critically dependent on people being given the tools and training they need to do a difficult job, very often in dark, wet and cold working conditions. So, I urge freight operators and maintainers to think carefully about the people who do the hands-on work, and the things that could be done to develop the capability of the work force.”

A year on from the derailment, agencies who worked on the extensive recovery action, came together to unveil a plaque to thank the local community.

(Lead image: RAIB)

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Carmarthenshire

Carmarthenshire proposes 4.4% council tax increase

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Carmarthenshire Council have announced a proposed 4.4% increase in council tax, around £1.15 a week more for the average Band D property.

Despite the proposed increase, the Council must still find and deliver £11.7million of savings over the next three years.

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Council Tax raises around £105million a year and contributes to around a quarter of the total annual budget.

Councillors must also find a way to manage the increasing demand for certain services, such as social care, and inflationary pressures – including the rising cost of energy bills and increasing costs of paying the foundation living wage – as well as delivering day to day services and schemes that will benefit and grow the county’s economy.

The council say they continue to feel the impact and uncertainty from the Covid-19 pandemic, with increasing pressure on several service areas and the prospect of Welsh Government’s hardship funding coming to an end.

Cllr David Jenkins, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “Unfortunately Welsh Government’s funding to councils has not kept pace with rising costs and increasing demands for our services, which is creating a budget shortfall every year.

“The settlement figure we’ve recently received appears healthy on the face of it, but with the Covid-19 hardship fund expected to come to an end, the settlement will have to contribute to the extra costs that we continue to face as we respond to the pandemic.

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“We also face rising inflationary costs at the same time as increased demand on our services.

“We will continue to do the best we possibly can, identifying savings proposals that will have minimal impact on frontline services, but difficult decisions will need to be made.

“We truly appreciate the financial hardship that people are facing, and now more than ever we encourage people to get involved in our budget setting process.

“The more people that respond the better as we will have more feedback on which to base our decisions.”

The council’s budget consultation has now opened allowing people to view the proposed draft budget and have their say.

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Councillors will consider the views expressed in the consultation when the budget is finally approved by Full Council in March.

People can share their views online at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/consultations or by emailing consultation@carmarthenshire.gov.uk.

(Lead image: Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

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Ammanford

£500,000 for the love of Franks’ Gelateria

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It was in 1922 that Francesco Dallavalle first started selling his ice cream around the Amman Valley on a horse and cart.

The Italian art of making ice cream has since been passed through the generations with grandsons Renaldo and Giulio Dallavalle, Directors of award-winning Frank’s Ice Cream, having now opened a new gelateria and innovation centre alongside the company’s existing manufacturing site in Capel Hendre.

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Funded by a £500,000 loan from the Development Bank of Wales, the new purpose-built facility houses the latest in ice cream making machinery and technology. Built by lead contractors Malpross Services of Cross Hands, the 4,300 square foot building features a product development centre and an ice cream parlour specialising in artisan gelato and semifreddo deserts that will be open to the public along with an open viewing and tasting area. Interactive classes will be available in a bespoke visitor room that will also host school visits.

Up to 12 new jobs are expected to be created in the new facility, which includes a short-run manufacturing unit that will improve efficiency by enabling the creation of specific one-off flavours and occasion ice creams.

Having been awarded their first major supermarket contract in 1990, Franks Ice Cream opened their first manufacturing site in Capel Hendre in 1993. The company went on to launch a diabetic range of ice cream with Morrisons before investing £1.5 million to increase production capacity and then beginning to export to the Middle East in 2019. They now supply dairy ice cream, vegan ice cream and ice cream for diabetics to a range of UK supermarkets and global brands.

Director Giulio Dallavalle said: “Our story is almost 100 years old. Since the early 20th century, my family has worked hard to grow our business with the same passion and integrity we use to create our award-winning ice cream.

“Our love of great-tasting, high quality, ice cream desserts is now shared by customers throughout the world. Our new innovation centre will allow us to stay ahead of the competition with rapid product developments as well as giving our loyal customers a place to enjoy our ice cream here in the community.

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“The funding from the Development Bank has helped us to begin the next chapter of our story; creating jobs and further enhancing our offering in this highly competitive market. We couldn’t have asked for better support which is why we now very much consider them as part of our Frank’s family.”

Giulio Sallavelle, Director Frank’s Ice Cream, Alun Thomas, Development Bank of Wales

Alun Thomas of the Development Bank of Wales said: “Franks’ is a long-established manufacturing business. This latest development enables the family to go back to their roots and sell ice cream direct to the public while also showcasing the very best innovation in the Welsh food sector. They’re a lovely family with a great business making the very best Italian ice cream. We wish them every success with their latest venture.”

Funding for Frank’s Ice Cream came from the £204 million Wales Business Fund. Financed by the European Regional Development Fund, the Welsh Government and the Development Bank of Wales, the fund offers loans, mezzanine finance and equity investments from £50,000 to £2 million for small and medium-sized businesses (those with fewer than 250 employees) based in Wales, or willing to relocate to Wales. Terms range from one to seven years with finance prioritised for businesses in economically deprived areas of Wales.

Lead image: Giulio Sallavelle, Director Frank’s Ice Cream, Alun Thomas, Development Bank of Wales 

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Carmarthenshire

Work starts on new £8.25m primary school for Pembrey

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Work has started on building a new £8.25million primary school for Pembrey.

The new school building is being constructed on the recreation ground/playing field immediately adjacent to the existing school site on Ashburnham Road.

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It will provide high-quality teaching facilities to improve the overall learning experience for learners, as well as benefitting the local community.

The new school will have capacity for 270 primary pupils, 30 nursery pupils and will incorporate a Flying Start facility which is currently located in a mobile classroom on the current school site.

Headteacher Helen Jacob said: “We are looking forward to having our brand-new school building at Pembrey where we can continue to provide quality educational opportunities and experiences for our children.

“Everyone is excited at the prospect of learning in a modern purpose-built school that will be at the heart of the community.”

The project is part of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme which aims to give every child in the county access to first class accommodation and facilities.

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It is being jointly funded by Welsh Government through its 21st Century Schools initiative.

The new school building has been designed by the council’s own architects and the work is being carried out by local contractor TRJ Ltd.

The estimated completion date is the autumn term of 2023.

Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “I am delighted that building work has started on the new school for the community of Pembrey. Building it on the adjacent recreation ground means that we can reduce disruption as much as possible.

“The council is committed to investing in our children’s futures, and the new school building will provide the very best educational facilities for both pupils and staff and accommodation fit for 21st century teaching and learning.”

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Local member Cllr Hugh Shepardson said: “I am delighted that we are making a start on the new Pembrey Primary School. The facility, which I understand will be completed next year, will provide state-of-the-art teaching facilities for our children at Pembrey and will allow our children to be taught in a modern and welcoming environment.

“I am grateful to the Education department’s Modernising Education Programme team and the authority’s Cabinet for their diligence and hard work in making the completion of the new school a reality.”

To date, the Modernising Education Programme has invested more than £300million in Carmarthenshire schools, including the building of 12 new primary schools, two new secondary schools, and 48 major refurbishments and extensions.

(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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