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08th Jul 2022

Irish Rail worker barely escapes being hit by 142km/h train before emergency stop

Dave Hanratty

Irish Rail escape

The incident took place last summer.

A worker for Irish Rail had a very lucky escape following an encounter with a train travelling at 142 kilometres per hour, according to a report carried out by Railway Accident Investigation Unit Ireland (RAIU).

On Wednesday, 21 July, 2021, an Iarnród Éireann’s Chief Civil Engineer’s (CCE) Department employee was performing the role of Track Safety Coordinator for a group of construction staff as they upgraded a wall at Gormanstown Station in Meath.

The area under construction was positioned away from the railway line and was deemed safe in which to operate. Responding to hot and sunny weather, the worker in question left the safety area and placed two temperature gauges onto the track – an action that had not been requested by management, as ruled by the RAIU report.

During this time, the 9.30am Enterprise service from Dublin to Belfast was approaching Gormanstown, travelling at 142 k/mh (88 miles per hour) non-stop to its first scheduled destination of Drogheda.

At approximately 10.04am, the CCE worker returned to the railway line to collect the temperature gauges, only to find the train bearing down upon him before clearing the line just four seconds before it passed by him.

Upon seeing the worker, the driver of the train sounded the horn and applied the emergency brake. The worker, who has been employed by Irish Rail for 19 years, was not injured as a result of the incident.

However, the report notes that “under slightly different circumstances”, the events may have led to a serious accident and the possibility of a fatal injury. The report also cites a potential “lack of concentration” on behalf of the worker who chose to carry out the temperature check “by his own volition”.

“The CCE worker is a long-term employee, and his experience and confidence may have meant that he momentarily lost concentration and wasn’t as alert as he should have been on the day of the incident,” notes the report. The worker was later tested for the presence of drugs and alcohol and ultimately returned a negative result.

Following the report, Irish Rail issued a company-wide ‘safety alert’ to employees and conducted a presentation on “Significantly reducing the risk of track workers being struck by trains”.

A review of internal processes was also called for.