NINE rail workers were just seconds from death after being given no warning that an 80mph passenger train was bearing down on them, rail accident investigators have said.
The track workers, operating on a small bridge on the West Coast mainline at Hest Bank, were reliant on getting visual and audible warnings of approaching trains as their view was restricted by the curvature of the track.
But they received no advance warning that an Edinburgh to Manchester Airport train was approaching.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said: “They were forced to take immediate evasive action when the train first became visible, approximately four seconds before it reached the site of work.
“Some staff were unable to reach a safe position and pressed themselves against the bridge parapet.”
The RAIB has launched an investigation into the incident which happened south of Hest Bank, near Lancaster, on the afternoon of September 22.
A lookout-operated warning system (LOWS) was being used to give warning of approaching trains because of the gang’s restricted view.
The RAIB said: “Our investigation will examine the reasons why no warning was provided to the track workers. It will consider the sequence of events and factors that may have led to the incident, and identify any safety lessons.”
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said: “This incident again illustrates the dangers that confront track workers on Britain’s railways on a daily basis. We have repeatedly raised concerns about the safety of the LOWS and this should force the pace for Network Rail to come up with a safer alternative.”