Network Rail admits failings which led to fatal Stonehaven rail disaster

The aftermath of the Stonehaven rail crash

NETWORK Rail yesterday admitted a series of failings which led to the death of three people in a train derailment near Stonehaven.

The company pled guilty to criminal charges at the High Court in Aberdeen.

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Three people died and six were injured when a train struck a landslide after heavy rain.

The BBC says Network Rail has admitted failing to impose a speed restriction, warn the driver that part of the track was unsafe, or ask him to reduce his speed.

It also admitted a number of failures over the maintenance and inspection of drainage in the area, and in adverse and extreme weather planning.

Driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62, died when the train derailed on August 12, 2020.

Earlier train

Mr Stuchbury had intended to board an earlier train which was cancelled, so he boarded the train which ultimately derailed instead as he could change at Dundee.

His wife said the date of the fatal crash had been their wedding anniversary, and her husband had been travelling to one last work trip before he retired. She said they had been robbed of their future together.

Six other people were injured when the Aberdeen to Glasgow service hit washed-out debris at Carmont, south of Stonehaven.

A drainage system in the area had been incorrectly installed by Carillion, which has since gone into liquidation.

The train had been returning towards Aberdeen at the time because the railway was blocked further down the line.

A Rail Accident Investigation Branch report said the train derailed because it struck debris that had washed out of a drainage trench.


The report made 20 recommendations to improve rail safety, many of which were directed at Network Rail.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice KC, prosecuting, said the derailment happened after a period of extreme torrential rainfall which had led both Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council to declare a major emergency.

He said the weather on the day of the accident was “exceptional”, with the Aberdeen station controller describing the rain as “beyond biblical”.

The train had stopped for two-and-a-half hours because of a landslip before being instructed to return north so passengers could disembark.

Mr McCullough had been told to proceed at normal speed, and the train was travelling at about 73mph – below the limit of 75mph.

Efforts to slow train

The prosecutor told the High Court in Aberdeen: “Despite his efforts to slow the train using the emergency brake, the driver of the train was unable to stop prior to the debris on the track.

“The train struck the debris, derailed and collided with a bridge parapet. This caused the train to veer of the bridge and down the steep embankment below the bridge.”

Mr Prentice said a recording of the driver showed he queried with a signaller if any reduced speed was needed to return north. He was told everything was fine for just normal speed.

The case at the High Court continues today.

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