A FORMER rail company director has raised concerns over the continued use of the model of train involved in the Stonehaven crash, calling for speed limits to be introduced for the trains until they are removed from service.
Former Network Rail maintenance director John Carson, who was also connected to the Paddington inquiry, has raised safety issues over the continued use of the High Speed Train locomotives and carriages like those in the Scottish derailment. He has linked it to the Paddington tragedy, a crash involving two trains including an HST at Ladbroke Grove in London in 1999, when 31 were killed and 417 injured.
Mr Carson raised concerns following the crash that killed driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury when the train hit a landslide at Carmont, Stonehaven in 2020.
The union ASLEF said it has “made clear our view that HST trains are not fit for purpose and need taken out of service”.
A spokesman for Transport Scotland, which took over control of rail operator ScotRail last month, said it is to review its rolling stock which includes the HST trains, but there is no blanket speed limit.
Mr Carson said: “When I looked at the aerial photographs of Stonehaven I immediately thought of Paddington. The similarities were uncanny. You have one carriage that was on fire, you have bogies that have dislocated carriages and you’ve got no crumple zones in the carriages.
“So, all the things that happened in Paddington, unfortunately, in my view.
“I was involved with the Paddington inquiry through the staff that reported to me.”
He has raised concerns over the age of the 1970s carriages and aspects like the lack of now standard crumple zones. He said the trains should be taken out of service and until that happens they should be operated at a restricted speed limit.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch said it “considers it more likely than not that the outcome would have been better if the train had been compliant with modern crashworthiness standards”.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “In response to the Carmont accident investigation, the Transport Minister previously instructed Transport Scotland to convene a steering group to implement the recommendations about safety performance in accidents involving older rolling stock, including HSTs.
“That group, which will include ASLEF, is close to being established and will help ensure appropriate steps are taken as quickly as possible for Scotland’s railways.
“At the present time, 25 of these diesel trains operate between Scotland’s key cities and their replacement is planned with electric or bi-mode intercity trains at the earliest possible time, which is expected to be when Network Rail has completed the electrification of all or most of the routes they serve.”
It said the Office of Rail and Road is steering parties to set out a “clear plan for how RAIB recommendations will be addressed and action taken”.
RAIB said in its March finding it is “urging the railway industry to think about ways of guiding derailed trains, and to think about the longer-term implications of continuing to operate rolling stock that pre-dates modern standards”. It said the refurbished HST that derailed at Carmont was built before more robust standards came into force, but the trains are authorised to operate in the UK.
Transport Scotland said “the arrival of a higher safety standard does not render earlier designs unacceptable”. It said ScotRail continues to operate HST trains “in accordance with the speed restrictions that apply for this type of train on each section of railway”, adding: “HSTs are not currently subject to a blanket speed restriction such as that suggested.”
An ASLEF spokesman said: “We will work with Transport Scotland and attend the steering group but we are committed to removing the HST fleet urgently and expect swift action by all concerned to ensure this happens.”
It comes as Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth has insisted ScotRail services will “absolutely not” be reduced until summer 2023.
The nationalised rail operator will cut 700 services from Monday in response to train driver shortages.