Home General Interest Extraordinary times

Extraordinary times

Following the recent tragedy at Stonehaven, and the wider difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines has been reflecting on the year so far:

Over the past five months, the whole rail industry has felt the impacts of COVID-19 and, more recently, the tragic derailment near Stonehaven. This is the first time in eighteen years we’ve had to respond to two crises at once. These are extraordinary times. So, whether they are directly involved in the ongoing work around the derailment, working through the challenges COVID-19 has brought, or are focusing on the day-to-day making sure the railway is safe and reliable – I want to say thank you to all my colleagues at Network Rail and in the wider rail industry.

As an industry, we are coming to terms with the impacts. On Wednesday, people across Great Britain joined us in observing a minute’s silence to remember those who sadly lost their lives in the derailment. At Aberdeen station, we laid wreaths to commemorate our railway colleagues, Brett and Donald, and our passenger, Christopher Stuchbury.

This was extremely humbling and landed on the same day that the final passenger, who was hospitalised, returned home – we wish them a speedy recovery. 

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 19: Scotrail Managing Director Alex Hynes lays a wreath as Scotland’s Railway remembers those who lost their lives in the Stonehaven derailment last Wednesday, at Aberdeen Train Station, on August 19, 2020, in Aberdeen, Scotland. (Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Scotland’s recovery

Our teams are on site supporting the investigation and, at the same time, they are planning how we safely recover the train carriages and repair the infrastructure. We’ve made significant progress inspecting sites with similar characteristics to those of the incident and we are due to have reviewed every site by the end of next week.

Challenges are still coming our way, with extreme weather across a number of our routes – the recent storms have particularly impacted Scotland and Wales. Our network resilience teams are working with leading experts to improve our ability to predict extreme weather, prepare for it and deal with its impact.


This August bank holiday weekend, we will be investing £105 million in our infrastructure with over 500 projects planned. This is a particular achievement because this bank holiday will mark us catching up on lost work from Easter, when the impacts of COVID-19 meant we were unable to complete all planned work. As many of our teams head out on track, I would urge them to please look out for one another and stay safe as they help make our railway safer and more reliable.

The past few months have been incredibly hard for many and we have a lot to do. But we continue to pick ourselves up and deliver day-in, day-out, and I am confident we will come out of this stronger.

Thank you all for what you do. Keep safe.

Nigel Wordsworth BSc(Hons) MCIJhttp://therailengineer.com
SPECIALIST AREAS Rolling stock, mechanical equipment, project reports, executive interviews Nigel Wordsworth graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Nottingham University, after which he joined the American aerospace and industrial fastener group SPS Technologies. After a short time at the research laboratories in Pennsylvania, USA, Nigel became responsible for applications engineering to industry in the UK and Western Europe. At this time he advised on various engineering projects, from Formula 1 to machine tools, including a particularly problematic area of bogie design for the HST. A move to the power generation and offshore oil supply sector followed as Nigel became director of Entwistle-Sandiacre, a subsidiary of the Australian-owned group Aurora plc. At the same time, Nigel spent ten years as a Technical Commissioner with the RAC Motor Sports Association, responsible for drafting and enforcing technical regulations for national and international motor racing series. Joining Rail Engineer in 2008, Nigel’s first assignment was a report on new three-dimensional mobile mapping and surveying equipment, swiftly followed by a look at vegetation control machinery. He continues to write on a variety of topics for most issues.


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