Questions remain over death of Wigan engineer on railway line

A report has admitted it is not entirely clear why he was on the track at the time.
Aden AshurstAden Ashurst
Aden Ashurst

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has published its findings after Aden Ashurst, from Gidlow, was struck by a train at around 90mph and killed in Northamptonshire last April.

The RAIB concluded that Aden, 51, was walking along the line while it was open and did not look back towards the approaching train on hearing its horn.

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The RAIB also found shortcomings with safety arrangements at the site and how Aden’s performance was monitored and has made recommendations for his employer AmcoGiffen.

Two points of learning from the tragedy have also been identified.

Aden suffered fatal injuries when he was struck by the train at around 10.52am on Wednesday April 8, 2020.The report said that twice that morning he had arranged for line blockages to allow engineers onto the track as part of the work being done at the site near the village of Roade.

At 10.48am he was asked by the signaller to hand the line back, and he confirmed it was safe for trains to pass once moreand noted it in his safe work pack.

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Seconds after that he stepped out of view of the site CCTV and his whereabouts remained unclear until he was picked up by the train’s forward-facing camera.

He was walking along the four-foot, the space between the rails, as the train which had left Northampton on time a few minutes earlier approached.

The train driver sounded the horn several times and Aden raised his hand in acknowledgement, the report said.

However, after he had stepped over the left-hand rail he was struck.

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Both the CCTV and witnesses confirmed he did not look towards the train.

The report said it was not possible to determine why Aden had gone back onto the track after handing back the line.

However, it was suggested that he may have got used to the times trains passed through, having worked there since January 2020.

An amended timetable had been put into action two days before the accident, with trains leaving Northampton 10 minutes earlier.

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One witness suggested Aden had said at 10.46am that the next train would be along in about 15 minutes, but that was the time on the old timetable.

It was also established that he had just been onto the track to carry out a task but the RAIB discovered this did not actually need doing and neither AmcoGiffen or Network Rail was aware of that.

The report also said Aden was mindful of Covid-19 and social distancing and may have not wanted to get too close to his colleagues.

Investigators also could not discount that he had been distracted by personal circumstances, although witnesses said he seemed his usual self that day.

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The RAIB found there had been some deviations from safety rules at the Roade site, and suggested Aden may have wanted to keep work progressing as it was running behind.

The report also noted engineers were doing work without a controller of site safety being present on part of the site when there should have been one.

The RAIB has recommended AmcoGiffen develops formal monitoring of its workforce with regard to safety and ensures its sites are compliant with safety measures.

It also said Network Rail should review its procedures to minimise the number of people going onto the track.

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The RAIB also concluded that workers need to have site safety plans specific to the work they are doing and that these are independently reviewed by a competent person.

A spokesperson for AmcoGiffen said: “Our thoughts remain with the family, friends and colleagues of Aden who lost his life in the conduct of delivering essential rail services.

“Given this incident remains the subject of ongoing investigations, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

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