A survivor of an horrific rail disaster said safety measures must be introduced immediately – after nine railway workers narrowly escaped death with seconds to spare.
The workers were given no warning that a passenger train was bearing down on them at Hest Bank, near Lancaster, rail accident investigators said.
The terrifying incident last month bears similarities to the Tebay tragedy which claimed the lives of four men 10 years ago.
The workers, operating on a small bridge on the West Coast main line, received no advance warning and leapt to safety with four seconds to spare.
Aspokesman for the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said: “They were forced to take immediate evasive action when the train 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 incident bore frightening similarities to the Tebay tragedy in 2004 in which Carnforth men Colin Buckley, 49, and Darren Burgess, 30, Chris Waters, 53, of Morecambe, and their colleague Gary Tindall, 46, of Tebay, died when a runaway trailer crashed into them as they worked in the dark on the West Coast Main Line.
Survivor Tom Angus, from Scotforth, stepped out of the path of the 16-tonne trailer just seconds before the 40mph impact.
He told the Guardian: “There have been dozens of incidents. It’s another Tebay waiting to happen.”
Rail bosses are to trial new safety measures from December in the hope of preventing future tragedies.The treadle-operated device would be fixed to the track close to where maintenance teams are working.
The trial will begin on December 17 at Preston railway yard. And on February 12 – three days before the 11th anniversary of Tebay – Network Rail will meet with campaigners to discuss the success of the scheme.
Now retired, Mr Angus, a former RMT Union Lancaster branch safety rep, said: “A 10 second warning at Tebay may have saved those lives.”
The RAIB has launched an investigation into the latest incident, which happened at 2.23pm on September 22.
The track workers, including contract staff and a controller of site safety employed by Network Rail, were packing ballast under sleepers on main line towards London. A lookout-operated warning system (LOWS) was being used to give warning of approaching trains because of the gang’s restricted view.
At about 2.23pm, a train, the 12.12 Edinburgh to Manchester Airport service, approached the site from the north. The train was travelling at an estimated 80mph.
ARAIB spokesman saidsaid: “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.”
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “We have repeatedly raised concerns about the safety of the LOWS and this RAIB report should force the pace for Network Rail to come up with a safer alternative.”