Bexley derailment

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Bexley derailment
Details
Date 4 February 1997
Location near Bexley
Country England
Rail line Dartford Loop Line
Cause Poor maintenance
Overloaded train
Statistics
Trains 1
Passengers 0 (freight train)
Deaths 0
Injuries 4
List of UK rail accidents by year

The Bexley derailment was an accident on the British railway system which occurred in Bexley, south east London, United Kingdom on 4 February 1997 when an eastbound EWS freight train derailed near to Bexley station on the Dartford Loop Line.

Railtrack plc, SEIMCL and STRCL were each convicted of various offences under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 resulting in fines totalling £150,000 and £41,768. In his sentencing remarks, the judge said that it "was merciful that nobody was killed although four people were injured". The Inspectorate report describes it as "fortunate" that nobody was killed.

The primary cause of the accident was found to be very poor track maintenance, contributed to by an overloaded wagon. Although the train was travelling above the authorised speed limit, it is unclear whether this was a causative factor in the accident.

Phrases such as:

  • "Bridge timbers Very bad condition"
  • "wheel timbers needs changing (urgently)"
  • "Extremely rotten bridge timber requires urgent attention"
  • "New 6 foot timber req. urgent twist on bridge, tie bars cannot be fitted - programmed urgent"
  • "Timbers 7 and 10 - "Expired"

were all reported within three months before the accident. Engineering works had been arranged before the derailment, but the planned work was then postponed. The Inspectorate Report found that contractors were not carrying out their contracts adequately and that Railtrack was not assessing their contractors adequately.

A wagon on the train was found to have been overloaded with spoil at a track renewal site. The wagon load had not been properly assessed by the engineering staff (STRCL) before departure from the work-site. A subsequent routine train examination by EWS did not identify that the wagon was overloaded.

The train was found to have exceeded the authorised speed for two reasons:

  • The driver had not been trained in the two-thirds rule, so had considered the train's permitted speed limit to be 60 mph (the maximum permissible line speed), as indicated on the train's TOPS train list, instead of 40 mph, which was a standard Sectional Appendix instruction of restricted speed applicable to all freight trains, because of braking distances required for the signalling provided on former BR Southern Region lines. The train driver was supplied by a passenger train company and so ordinarily drove passenger trains.
  • The speedometer in the cab of the leading locomotive was recording an incorrect speed.

The train was a double-headed Class 37 train; the leading locomotive was 37167 and the second locomotive was 37220. The train was operating the 6Y56 from Three Bridges, Sussex to Hoo Junction, near Gravesend, Kent. The train consisted of 19 wagons. The two locomotives and the first 11 wagons were not derailed and did not sustain damage.

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Coordinates: 51°26′28″N 0°09′04″E / 51.44111°N 0.15111°E / 51.44111; 0.15111