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Making sure you don't go off the rails in a crisis

Helping a farmer to deal with the aftermath of this train crash is all in a day's work. Mike Reid reports.

Over the many years that CKD Galbraith has advised a broad range of rural clients on a multitude of challenges, it's fair to say that train crashes have not featured regularly.

However, help was needed - and fast - by one of our farming clients when an engineering train with more than 30 wagons of ballast collided with a stationery train near Cumnock on the main line from Glasgow to Dumfires. Some of the derailed carriages came through the embankment onto the farm but, fortunately, no people or animals were injured.

The farm was suddenly inundated with emergency services, Health & Safety Executive and representatives of Network Rail. The easiest access to the crash site was along the farm road between the farmhouse and farm buildings where a constant stream of people and vehicles were flowing. 

Network Rail needed to re-open the line quickly so the derailed wagons and engines needed to be lifted off the tracks. Access wasn't possible along the railway line, so Network Rail wanted to agree terms with the farmer to gain access for a 1,000-ton crane and to set up a work compound.

CKD Galbraith advised on an appropriate agreement and it was essential to balance short-term essential work with the potential long-term implications for the farm. At one stage it was suggested that in order for the crane to obtain access either part of the house or farm buildings had to be demolished. Thankfully, that was not necessary and an alternative access solution was agreed together with terms for Network Rail to construct a three-acre compound together with an access road.

Terms were agreed and signed within a couple of days, protecting the farmer's long-term interests while enabling Network Rail to start work.

The agreement included a detailed specification of the compound works, temporary fences and gates, relocation of water supplies, protection of the drainage system, reinstatement of the land at the end of the agreement, compensation for damage and protection against other losses such as subsidy payments. Health and safety considerations were a high priority for both parties.

Fortunately train crashes are few and far between. However, as in every crisis, a sound short-term and long-term plan goes a long way to meeting a hugely challenging situation successfully.