Railway safety inspectors found no evidence that a canopy which collapsed at Cork’s Kent railway station last year was structurally inspected since an updated safety standard was introduced by Iarnród Éireann in 2004.
Iarnród Éireann has been advised to identify all cast iron structures on the rail network which could be at risk of collapse in extreme weather conditions, as a result of the incident.
Railway safety inspectors made the recommendation in a report just published into the collapse of a canopy at Kent Station last December in high winds and heavy rain, when a number of passengers were lucky to escape serious injury.
A report by the Department of Transport’s Railway Accident Investigation Unit (RAIU) said under slightly different conditions it could have been a more serious accident with the “potential for fatalities, multiple serious injuries and extensive damage”.
The canopy on two platforms collapsed due to structural failure on December 18, 2013, following unusually high winds. Inspectors found 14 of 17 cast-iron columns supporting the canopy had fractured.
The RAIU said inherent weaknesses in the cast-iron structure, which dated from the late 1800s, and the weather conditions, were contributory factors in the incident.
Inspectors said an underlying cause was the failure of Iarnród Éireann’s chief civil engineers’ department to have a weather management protocol in place for actions to be taken to protect structures at risk in adverse weather conditions.
They also noted the canopy had not received an inspection that met the structural requirements of Iarnród Éireann’s standards, while there appeared to be a consistent problem with annual inspections not containing the required signatures of those who had carried out the work.
The RAIU made three safety recommendations including the identification of all cast-iron structures on the rail network.
It recommended Iarnród Éireann establish a formal procedure for managing risk associated with high winds, and urged the company to review its structural and annual regimes for buildings and facilities to ensure they are inspected to prescribed standards.
One of three people waiting on the platform for a train to Midleton was knocked to the ground by the falling canopy and required hospital treatment.
Another part of the structure fell onto an empty stationary train. Debris from the roof was also blown into the station’s car park, damaging some vehicles.
Emergency services were called and the decision was taken to evacuate the station, while all train services were cancelled.
The RAIU report showed gusts of up to 107km/h were recorded at Cork Airport on the day of the incident.
It noted Iarnród Éireann has since reviewed all canopies on its network and placed all structures identified as vulnerable in extreme weather on a risk register.
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