'Runaway' wagon at Kineton ended up near level crossing as brakes failed

The runaway wagon once it had come to a stand
The runaway wagon once it had come to a stand -Credit:Kuehne+Nagel

An investigation into a 'runaway' Ministry of Defence wagon that ended up near a public level crossing has revealed safety failings. At just after 9pm on May 25, an empty wagon left the Ministry of Defence (MOD) sidings located within Kineton munitions depot, Warwickshire.

It travelled for about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) on a 'predominantly descending gradient' before it came to rest as the track gradient reversed. The wagon had pushed through two sets of trailing hand points, broke through the gates at the exit to the sidings, passed over two farm crossings, and traversed a level crossing on a public road. The wagon came to rest a short distance beyond the public road level crossing. Nobody was injured during the incident.

The wagon was owned by DB Cargo and leased to Kuehne+Nagel (K+N), who was operating it on behalf of MOD. An investigation has found that the wagon ran away because it was stabled on a gradient, as a single wagon, with insufficient brake force to restrain it, and without a system to prevent it from leaving the sidings.

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A report made public on the government's website states: "RAIB identified three underlying factors. The first was that MOD’s contractors did not have sufficient expertise and resources to properly manage the risk of rail operations at Kineton. The second was that MOD did not provide effective safety leadership to its contractors.

"The final underlying factor was that the level of oversight by safety regulators meant that the lack of safety leadership within MOD rail operations was not identified and addressed. RAIB also observed that the facilities used by DB cargo staff to carry out safety-critical maintenance activities were not well suited for the task.

"RAIB has made five recommendations. The first is that MOD should review current arrangements to make sure that rail operations run on its behalf are being managed safely. The second asks MOD to work with statutory regulators and consider their regulation strategy for defence operated railways. The third recommendation aims for K+N to ensure that rail operations provided as part of the MOD contract are being managed safely. The fourth and fifth recommendations are addressed to DB Cargo and ask it to review its maintenance procedures for this wagon type and to ensure wagon brake components are scheduled for replacement at the end of their designed life.

"RAIB identified one learning point, reminding shunters not to rely on handbrake indicators as the sole source of information regarding the handbrake’s status."

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