Balcombe Tunnel

30 September 2013

Balcombe Tunnel

30 Sep 2013

Mick Whelan has reacted with ‘disgust and dismay’ at the revelation that passengers and train crew on the busy London to Brighton line could have been killed because of years of maintenance work failures on Balcombe Tunnel, near Crawley, in West Sussex.

Mick said: ‘More than 70 million passengers travel on the main London to Brighton line, with 2,500 trains passing through the Balcombe Tunnel each week. That’s in addition to the train crew. Everyone who travels on the train has the right to do so in safety, and the right to expect that maintenance work is properly and effectively carried out.

‘A total of 18 bolts were found to be missing and others had worked themselves loose from the metal platform, which was installed to catch water seeping into the tunnel.

‘I am disgusted and dismayed to learn that the engineer responsible for 120 tunnels, including Balcombe, was not suitably qualified and was not given the correct support. The travelling public, and those of us who work on the railway, have been badly let down.’

The tunnel, which was built in the Victorian era, was closed for 22 hours in September 2011 after workers reported the partial collapse of a metal ceiling platform. An official report into the incident highlighted failures by maintenance teams that left large steel girders dangling just inches above trains.

Now a whistleblower – a Network Rail engineer – has told BBC Inside Out South East that if one of the steel beams had hit a carriage then passengers would have died. He told the programme: ‘You're looking at a fatality if that steel bar would have come down. God forbid if it had gone down between two trains. Then it would have gone through both, ripped the train, the whole carriage, half a carriage – but there would have been fatalities.’

Back »

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