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UK urgently checks train network after deadly derailment

The British government ordered urgent safety checks on the rail network on Thursday after a passenger train derailed in northeast Scotland, leaving three people dead.

The 06:38 am service from Aberdeen to Glasgow came off the tracks on Wednesday morning near the town of Stonehaven, which had been hit by flooding following heavy rain.

The driver, conductor and a passenger were killed and six people were hospitalised with minor injuries, while four firefighters were hurt battling the ensuing fire.

Police said the train had luckily not been busy. Travel in the region is currently restricted due to tighter coronavirus measures imposed following a localised surge in cases of COVID-19.

On a visit to the crash site on Thursday, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was a “harrowing” scene and offered his condolences to those affected.

He said the derailment was “probably related to a landslip of some form”, but said investigators would also look at the train’s speed among other factors.

A landslip had been reported close to where the train derailed at 09:43 am (0843 GMT).

With more heavy rain forecast, Shapps said he had ordered immediate checks across the railways and a report by September 1 into the “wider resilience of the whole British network”.

“We’re very, very keen to learn the lessons,” he told Sky News television, adding: “What’s happened here is horrendous, and we need to understand why.”

Britain’s last major rail derailment was in 2007 in Cumbria, in northwest England, which left one passenger dead and 30 others injured.

Rail infrastructure body Network Rail said it was inspecting high-risk trackside slopes and working with meteorologists to improve the information it gets about flash flooding.

Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson, who also visited the site, highlighted the challenge of “localised, intense weather events”.

“One of the things we will see what comes from the investigation is whether the pace of that type of mitigation work needs to be stepped up,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Queen Elizabeth II, who is staying in her Scottish home of Balmoral around 50 miles away from Stonehaven, all sent condolences.


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