Tebay rail accident

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This article is about the engineering accident. For the passenger train accident, see Grayrigg rail crash.
Tebay rail accident
Memorial to the Tebay rail accident
Memorial to the Tebay rail accident
Date 15 February 2004
Location Tebay, Cumbria
Coordinates 54°25′10.76″N 2°35′55.43″W / 54.4196556°N 2.5987306°W / 54.4196556; -2.5987306Coordinates: 54°25′10.76″N 2°35′55.43″W / 54.4196556°N 2.5987306°W / 54.4196556; -2.5987306
Country England
Rail line WCML
Type of incident Runaway train, Collision, Industrial Negligence
Cause Brake failure as result of gross negligence
Deaths 4
Injuries 5
List of UK rail accidents by year

The Tebay rail accident occurred when four railway workers working on the West Coast Main Line were killed by a runaway wagon near Tebay, Cumbria, England in the early hours of 15 February 2004.[1]


The accident happened after a wagon laden with lengths of steel rail ran away from a maintenance area at Scout Green because it did not have properly working brakes. Wooden chocks had been placed in front of the wagon to stop it moving because the hydraulic brakes had been disconnected due to a fault; however they had not been repaired or replaced.[2] As a maintenance worker began using an excavator's "log grab" in an attempt to drag sections of scrap rail from the wagon, the action caused the wooden blocks to dislodge. Slowly the wagon began to move downhill gathering momentum on the 1 in 75 gradient from Shap summit.

In darkness, the 16-tonne steel wagon rolled down the West Coast Main Line reaching speeds of up to 40 miles per hour (60 km/h). Running almost silently and without any warnings, it struck the four railway workers (Colin Buckley, 49, Carnforth; Darren Burgess, 30, Carnforth; Chris Waters, 53, Morecambe; Gary Tindall, 46, Tebay) who were carrying out overnight work 3.25 miles (5 km) further down the main line. Five men were also injured. The wagon continued to travel for almost 4 miles (6 km) until stopping.[2]


Following the incident, Mark Connolly the boss of the rail maintenance company, MAC Machinery Services, as well as the crane operator, Roy Kennett, were tried at Newcastle Crown Court on charges of manslaughter caused by gross negligence.[3] Connolly was also prosecuted for breaches of health and safety law. Both men were found guilty by majority verdicts; Connolly was sentenced to nine years and Kennett for two years.[4]

On 1 March 2007, an appeal launched by the two jailed men seeking to overturn their convictions failed. However the Court of Appeal did reduce Connolly's prison sentence from nine to seven years.[5] In January 2017, the Office of the Traffic Commissioner for Wales announced it had rejected an application by Connolly for a Heavy Goods Vehicle Operators' License because of his manslaughter convictions. He had made the application to operate HGVs after being found driving a lorry without such a licence in May 2016.[6]

There is a small plaque at the site of the Tebay incident, with the names of the deceased, which was erected in September 2006.


  1. ^ Rail Safety and Standards Board (2005). "Tebay report and recommendations" (PDF). Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Accident at Tebay on 15th February 2004". The Railway Archive. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  3. ^ "Death wagon brakes 'dismantled'". BBC NEWS. 17 January 2006. 
  4. ^ "Pair jailed for Tebay rail deaths". BBC NEWS. 17 March 2006. 
  5. ^ "Tebay rail death appeal bid fails". BBC NEWS. 1 March 2007. 
  6. ^ "Driver with manslaughter convictions refused HGV licence". BBC NEWS. 9 January 2017.