NETWORK Rail has denied it compromised safety over costs following criticism from the RMT rail union over a broken rail on the East Coast Mainline.

The RMT said five inches of rail head had crumbled away to nothing leaving a “potentially lethal” gap in the track at Colton Junction, just south of York, where trains run up to 125mph.

It said a crack had been identified following an inspection, but the rail was not replaced until four days later during which time it widened to become a five inch gap.

Loading article content

Referring to the incident, RMT General Secretary Bob Crow claimed staffing and inspections had been cut on the East Coast Mainline in what he described as a dash to save money.

He said: “There is massive pressure right from the top of Government to keep services running at all costs, regardless of the potential human cost.

“This is exactly the same set of poisonous conditions that led us to the Hatfield disaster and the picture of this rail shows we are dicing with death and risking another major rail tragedy.”

Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “As soon as we knew about the crack in this rail we stopped all trains and rectified the problem.

“This was managed within all safety standards and was in no way affected by changes to staffing levels.

“A minor defect in the rail – not a crack - was picked up by our monitoring train on November 12.

"A rail replacement was scheduled for December 9 and the defect was maintained on November 21.

"On November 21 there was no crack in the rail. Weekly inspections of this defect were completed. This is fully compliant with best practice and industry standards.

“The rail deteriorated ,which was identified by a train driver on the neighbouring line at 12.01pm on Wednesday November 28.

"We immediately stopped all trains from travelling over the fault and the track was replaced by 7.37pm that evening. Safety issues will never be compromised in the name of managing costs.”

:: Four lives were lost when a GNER train derailed in Hatfield, Herfordshire, in October 2000 due to a broken rail.