Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Spotted Track Fault; Commuter's Warning to Railtrack Prevents Potential Incident

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Spotted Track Fault; Commuter's Warning to Railtrack Prevents Potential Incident

Article excerpt

Byline: HUGH MUIR;JAMES BURLEIGH

RAILTRACK took urgent safety action this week in the wake of the Potters Bar disaster at the insistence of an Evening Standard reader, who alerted them to possible new dangers on one of the country's busiest lines.

Engineers replaced a rail clamp after they had been told it was coming off the main line at Watford Junction - near the scene of an August 1996 accident in which one person died and 69 were injured after the driver of a passenger train passed a red signal and hit an empty train.

The clamps are used on sections of track which have defects such as brake burn - where the braking process has damaged the track - or fatigue.

The potential danger was spotted by commuter Rupert Lodge, a qualified mechanical and electrical engineer - though not in the rail industry - who travels between Bletchley and Euston.

Three weeks ago he contacted Railtrack because he believed there were a remarkable number of clamps on the line near Watford, indicating concerns about track quality.

He particularly noticed one had come loose and was shifting down the line.

He reported it to a rail supervisor and the problem was rectified a few days later.

However, last week he noticed the same clamp had again worked its way loose and had shifted. On Tuesday this week he found the shifting clamp had fallen apart and was in pieces beside the track. He complained again.

Within hours that evening Mr Lodge was called to a meeting with Railtrack officials on the platform at Watford Junction. They told him a new type of clamp with lock-nuts had been installed.

Mr Lodge, said: "I told them that if the clamp fell off completely they could end up with a terrible accident. If there was later to be an accident, I didn't want someone to say they knew nothing about it."

Mr Lodge, who met Railtrack's information asset manager Peter Halliwell, added: "I'm not a clamps expert but I had a vested interest in that track as a train passenger and just wanted to make sure something was done to fix an obvious problem. …

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