A SIX-INCH gap on a 125mph section of the East Coast Main Line has sparked fears of a repeat of the Hatfield railway disaster.

Railway union RMT said the track near Hambleton South Junction, near Selby, North Yorkshire, had “crumbled away to nothing” between a fault being spotted on January 17 and the track being replaced last Saturday (February 2).

The RMT said in the 17 days it took to mend the gap a train could have derailed, jumped the tracks and collided with an oncoming service.

Loading article content

Mr Crow said: "This means we had trains thundering over this section of rail between London and the north at speeds of up to 125mph.

"The consequences of this whole affair could have been horrendous."

After the RMT highlighted the concerns, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch announced it had launched an investigation into a “number of rail breaks” on the line.

The inquiry will include why a 100mm gap developed on the line near York in November before being spotted by a train driver passing the other way.

The union claims the Government is exerting pressure to keep the East Coast Mainline running, as they look to re-privatise the service, while Network Rail is facing demands from the Office of Rail Regulation to cut back on rail renewals work.

Network Rail said while a “dip” had been identified on January 17, the track had deteriorated at a faster rate than expected and, on discovering the broken rail on February 2, all traffic was stopped immediately while a repair was carried out.

A spokesman said: “This incident was managed within all safety standards and was in no way affected by changes to staffing levels. Safety issues will never be compromised in the name of managing costs.”