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CROSS Safety Report

Split responsibility for collapsed boundary wall adjacent to railway

Report ID: 776 Published: 1 July 2018 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A train driver reported striking debris from a collapsed wall in an urban location.

Key Learning Outcomes

For all built environment professionals:

  • If you notice a potential safety issue not during the course of your work, consider reporting it to the owner or tenant

  • If the owner is not known, then the appropriate regulator could be informed

For asset owners and managers:

  • Rail companies have significant influence over anything that could affect the operation of their railways, regardless of who the asset belongs to. This allows appropriate measures to be taken to keep their systems safe.

Full Report

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Our secure and confidential safety reporting system gives professionals the opportunity to share their experiences to help others. If you would like to know more, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.

A train driver reported striking debris from a collapsed wall in an urban location. The material was part of a boundary wall that runs along the top of a retaining wall adjacent to the railway. The boundary wall was known to be in poor condition, including being disturbed by the removal of a large tree, according to the reporter. The ownership/responsibility for the retaining wall and the boundary wall was split, which led to a breakdown in communication for undertaking the required remedial works.

Expert Panel Comments

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Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

This apparently minor incident could have had serious consequences because it occurred alongside a railway line. The 2011 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report Preventing catastrophic events in construction defines catastrophic events as those that are beyond the ordinary or routine and are characterised by being of low probability but high consequence.

Examples of occurrences which may be catastrophic events include:

  • Structural collapse of permanent structure(s) with potential consequences for multiple deaths and serious injuries in a single incident

  • Serious disruption of infrastructure (e.g. road, rail)

  • Services (e.g. power, telecoms)

There is no indication in the report that this wall collapse might have had catastrophic consequences, but the circumstances might have been slightly different. What might have been the result if there had been a derailment? CROSS reports frequently demonstrate that there is a very fine line between a near miss and a disaster; it is often a matter of luck and timing. It is the duty of all who own, or who manage assets adjacent to major transportation links, such as railways, to be aware of their responsibilities.

Rail companies have significant influence over anything that could affect the operation of the railways, regardless of who the asset belonged to, they would ensure appropriate measures to keep the system safe. In the broader context, if a professional engineer sees something that looks dangerous, they should, as an ethical duty at least, report it.

Rail companies have significant influence over anything that could affect the operation of the railways, regardless of who the asset belonged to, they would ensure appropriate measures to keep the system safe

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