It looks highly likely that Network Rail are going to put the blame for the Stonehaven rail crash on climate change. It seems that climate change is fast becoming the whipping boy, and the first port of call these days for any disaster that occurs. They reckon they are making record investments to prevent this happening of course and this has absolutely nothing to do with how infrequently the track side drains and culverts are cleared these days compared with how much more frequently it was done in the years before – these Victorians just didn’t know how to build railways like we do at Crossrail.
Network Rail also plan to take on board (pardon the pun) Dame Julia Slingo, the ex-boss of the Met Office and renowned expert on flooding of earthwork assets to ‘address these issues’ for them. I wonder how much they’re paying her for the privilege? I bet it’s a fair bet to assume that an urgent project has already been instigated by the Met Office to build a smart app called ‘Embankment Watch’ or ‘Rail Eyes’ or something such.
My advice to them would be to use ArcGIS to build it with, as they should have done with the NSWWS. Obviously the server will need to be hooked up to hourly mesoscale rainfall accumulations and recent accumulations from weather radar. The threshold for each of the tens of thousands of cuttings across the country will be the tricky bit to get right, because everyone will be unique with a different gradient and soil composition. Once they overcome that problem all they need do is sit back and monitor the thresholds, alerting the user when any of them are exceeded by flashing up a little red icon, or perhaps go for the full traffic lights solution of green, amber and red.
Similarities between Network Rail and Highland Council
This may seem like a bit of an aside to the main thrust of this post but it’s quite apparent to me that there’s little if any preventative maintenance done by Highland council on the roads where we live in Ross-shire. You can take a picture of a blocked drain as I did, upload it to their website, placing a cross on a high scale map, describe just how badly the drain is blocked or collapsed, and then receive a unique reference number which they completely ignore. It seems to me that Network Rail have a very similar business model as Highland council do, each year they hike up the ticket prices and do less and less track maintenance, Highland Council do exactly the same hiking up the council tax each April and doing less and less road maintenance or anything else come to that in return. They are both only interested in increasing their revenue stream whilst doing as little preventative maintenance work as possible.
Global warming or lack of maintenance?
Who is to blame for this rail accident? In these litigious days we always need someone or something to blame it seems, maybe so we can sleep easier, or board that train a little more confidently. Was is all down to the exceptional heavy rain? Even though the rain that night had had been much heavier over Fife. Or, was it perhaps because the trackside culverts were blocked, the flood water dammed up, before finally breaking through in a cascade of gravel and debris over the track.
I’m quietly confident where Network Rail has already pinned the blame for this accident and that’s why they’ve hired Dame Julia.