Watchdog claims key safety checks on rail network not carried out
Published 23/05/2011 | 05:00
IARNROD Eireann failed to carry out key safety checks across the rail network for more than a year after one of the country's busiest lines fell into the sea, the Irish Independent has learnt.
Audits carried out by watchdog the Railway Safety Commission (RSC) in May, September and October last year found "no evidence" that inspections of tracks and signalling equipment were being carried out as often as needed.
The audits found there was "no immediate risk" to people.
However, the RSC has ordered the railway company to make changes to its safety systems to ensure the travelling public are not put in jeopardy.
The reports were carried out after a section of one of the country's busiest rail lines fell into the sea at Malahide, north Dublin in August 2009 because the semi-state company forgot how it was constructed.
An investigation concluded workmen carrying out safety checks did not know how to properly assess the structure because the knowledge had been lost over time.
Iarnrod Eireann is required by law to implement a safety management system and prepare a safety case that the RSC must accept before it is permitted to operate train services.
Although the rail operator ran a safe network, it found, the three reports warned the safety case was not being followed, which posed a risk.
A report from September 2010 into the maintenance of railway points, which allow trains to be guided from one track to another, said there was "insufficient evidence" the points were being regularly inspected.
There was also no proof the crossings had undergone ultrasonic testing in the previous 12 months, which would identify flaws and problems.
"If points are not maintained they can, in certain circumstances, lead to a train derailing," the RSC said.
Of 17 derailments between 2006 and 2009, the condition of the tracks was a factor in five.
Iarnrod Eireann said the audits helped strengthen safety and that the company was updating its systems.
"Iarnrod Eireann has in recent times been actively transforming its safety management system, and the fact that this is in process is stated throughout the audits. The issues identified are being addressed."