A freight train carrying 1600 tonnes of cement derailed and two wagons are thought to have plunged over a bridge last night, leaving a trail of destruction that has forced engineers to close the line for ‘several days’.
Network Rail said carriages carrying cement came off the tracks over the River Petteril near Carlisle, Cumbria shortly after 8pm yesterday. No-one was injured.
The railway has been closed in both directions, affecting Northern services on the routes from Carlisle to Newcastle and Morpeth, and from Carlisle to Skipton and Leeds.
Network Rail said there will be ‘a significant number of unavoidable cancellations over the coming days’ as the incident is likely to have caused ‘significant damage’ to the railway bridge, track and lineside equipment.
The infrastructure management company added: ‘The route is expected to be entirely closed to all trains for several days.
‘Disruption is expected until at least the end of the day on Sunday October 23.’
A freight train came off the line near Carlisle last night, causing significant disruptions to services between Carlisle, Newcastle and Skipton
Network Rail are on site carrying out investigations and have said the incident is likely to have caused ‘significant damage’ to the railway bridge, track and lineside equipment
According to reports this morning, one of the wagons collapsed into the back of a B&Q store on London Road. Access to the garden centre is being restricted and public paths along the River Petterril have also been cordoned off.
Two of the wagons have reportedly fallen off the side of the bridge and into the river.
The crash follows months of strikes by RMT members of Network Rail, with more having been announced in recent days. Engineers are among the thousands of railway workers who have walked out in recent weeks, potentially leaving railway lines less well looked after.
Phil James, Network Rail’s north-west route director, said: ‘I’m extremely sorry to passengers who are facing disruption today while we deal with this incident in Carlisle.
‘Thankfully train derailments are rare and our priority now is to protect the safety of people using the railway, those living beside it and the surrounding environment while we carry out the necessary detailed investigation and complex recovery work.
‘We will work around the clock with all agencies to do this and then speedily make our repairs to get the line reopened again for passengers and freight as soon as possible.
‘In the meantime, please check National Rail enquiries for the latest travel information as the scale of the damage means it will be some time before we get things back up and running as normal.’
Inspectors from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch will have to examine the scene before any efforts can be made to remove the train and repair the railway.
The government agency said in an update at 10.15am that they have a team on site who have begun gathering information and evidence. In a tweet the RAIB added: ‘Initial reports are seven wagons have derailed.’
According to Rail Charter Services, which runs tourist services on the Settle-Carlisle line, wagons ended up in the water following the derailment of the Clitheroe to Carlisle cement train.
Northern said a bus replacement service is in place between Carlisle and Wetheral and Carlisle and Appleby.
It added that passengers could use their tickets on Avanti and TransPennine Express services.
The incident comes as more days of strike action on the railways are announced for November as the dispute over pay and conditions rumbles on.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has organised a fresh round of widespread strikes for Thursday 3, Saturday 5 and Monday November 7.
Previous national RMT strikes have seen around 40,000 workers walk out and just one in five trains running, causing significant disruption.
Services between Carlisle, Newcastle, Preston and Leeds are all expected to be disrupted for ‘several days’ according to the operator, Northern
Train managers on Avanti West Coast who are members of the RMT are set to strike on October 22 and November 6, while ScotRail staff will walk out on October 29.
Meanwhile, RMT members on London Overground and London Underground are set to strike on November 3, while staff at 14 other train companies will walk out on November 3 and 5.
The RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch accused the Rail Delivery Group of being ‘completely unreasonable’ throughout the dispute and lashed out train firms ‘making millions of pounds of profit’.
My Lynch had already slammed Network Rail, hitting out on Tuesday at what he called ‘dishonesty’ and ‘a new low’.
The RMT accused Network Rail of attempting to impose ‘drastic changes’ in working practices on its staff and of writing directly to staff ‘undermining delicate talks’.
But Network Rail’s chief negotiator Tim Shoveller insisted that an 8 per cent pay deal had been offered and said the RMT was ‘more intent on damaging strikes rather than giving members a vote on our offer.’
He wrote to Mr Lynch inviting him to ‘intensive’ talks next week in a bid to avert the fresh wave of strikes.