You are in RA » Document Archive » Accident at Sandy on 23rd July 1969 » Report on the Derailments that occurred on Continuous Welded Rail Track at Lichfield (London Midland Region), Somerton (Western Region), and Sandy (Eastern Region), British Railways, during June and July 1969 and on the General Safety of this form of Track

view document PDF (0.8Mb download)Report on the Derailments that occurred on Continuous Welded Rail Track at Lichfield (London Midland Region), Somerton (Western Region), and Sandy (Eastern Region), British Railways, during June and July 1969 and on the General Safety of this form of Track

Document Summary

The report into three accidents caused by distortion of Continuous Welded Rail in the hot weather during summer 1969.

This document was published on 16th February 1970 by Ministry of Transport.

It was written by Major C. F. Rose.


This item is linked to the Accident at Sandy on 23rd July 1969


The original document format was Stapled Book, and comprised 22 pages.

This document was kindly sourced from Stuart Johnson and is in our Accident reports collection. It was added to the Archive on 25th May 2006.

Copyright Information

This document is Crown Copyright, and is subject to the terms governing the reproduction of crown copyright material. Depending on the status and age of the original document, you may need an OPSI click-use license if you wish to reproduce this material, and other restrictions may apply. Please see this explanation for further details.

"British Railways adopted continuous welded rail track as a standard in 1959 following lengthy technical investigations, and at a time when such track was already in use on many other Railways. The form of track adopted was necessarily designed for the national temperature range and the humid and generally corrosive atmosphere. The advantages to be gained from the use of CWR made its adoption almost inevitable once its practicability was established. Apart from the more comfortable ride for passengers these advantages included economic ones, such as an extension of rail life by between 30 per cent and 40 per cent, savings in the cost of track maintenance, extended sleeper life, and reduction in fuel costs and wear and tear on rolling stock, as well as the important gain in safety resulting from the elimination of rail joints. The latter have always been the weakest point in conventional jointed track and by far the greatest number of rail breaks, and those potentially the most dangerous, have been associated with the fishbolt holes at rail ends. It will be recalled that the derailment of a passenger train at Hither Green (Southern Region) in November 1967, in which 49 people were killed, resulted from a rail break at a joint in conventional jointed track.

Experience between 1959 and 1968, during which period the mileage of CWR track grew from 200 to nearly 4,000 miles, seemed to show that the track design and the specification for laying and maintaining it were sound. The annual rate of distortions was small and constant; many more distortions occurred each year on the old jointed type of track in spite of the provision for heat expansion which this form of track provides. Even the two derailments that occurred on CWR track during 1968 could perhaps be regarded as special cases. In each the track buckled actually under the train, in each the train was a freightliner and in each some element of human error was present. However, the events of the summer of 1969 indicated, firstly, that the factor of safety against buckling with the track subject to high thermal compression was insufficient, and secondly that the old rules for the laying and maintenance of the CWR track and the interpretation and application of these to work on the ground left something to be desired.

Once these facts came to light it was clear that the first priority had to he to ensure that existing lines laid with CWR would be safe for traffic by the onset of warm weather in 1970. Paragraphs 62 to 65 in this Report detail the steps already taken and being taken by the British Railways Board to this end. I am satisfied that these measures are the best that can be taken in the time (and with the knowledge) available and that the Board's vigorous implementation of the programme to add extra ballast and to destress any suspect lengths of CWR give good grounds for thinking that the number of distortions in 1970 should once again be very small."

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