Winds blow containers from freight trains

04 March 2008

The union says it is ‘very concerned’ about the safety implications of two incidents last weekend (1 March) involving containers being blown off freight trains in high winds. The incidents happened at two locations Cheddington in Bedfordshire and Hardendale in Cumbria. ‘We are unaware of any such incident happening before – and need to be assured that it will not happen again,’ says ASLEF general secretary Keith Norman.


Neither driver was aware that a container had been blown off, and in one case a train ran for 40 miles after the incident. At Cheddington a Class 56 loco was pulling 20 flat wagons at about 70 mph when it lost 2 empty containers. The detached containers blocked the running lines and caused damage to overhead line equipment.


At Hardendale Quarry a freight train consisting of two Class 86 locomotives hauling 20 container flat wagons, lost five empty containers while travelling at about 70 mph. They also blocked running lines and again caused damage to overhead equipment and track.


‘We are fortunate that these incidents did not lead to injuries or worse,’ Keith says. ‘Drivers in the area would have no idea that lines were blocked by containers. This was not helped by the fact that there were axle-counters rather than track circuits.'


The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has begun its enquiry. Preliminary investigations rule out faults with the driving or maintenance of the train, or the condition of the track. Common factors include high cross-winds, the location of the incident sites on embankments, the unladen condition of the containers, the type of wagon involved and the running speeds of the trains. The RAIB says, ‘The ongoing investigation will focus on, but not be limited to, the aerodynamics effects of the cross winds on the containers, the design of the wagon, how containers are retained on wagons and any operational restrictions on container wagons in high winds.’


‘We await the outcome of this report with concern,’ Keith says, adding that the union would not comment further until it had received the RAIB report.

Back »

By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information please refer to ASLEF’s Privacy Policy