Report 10/2023: Freight train derailment at Petteril Bridge Junction

Rail Accident Investigation Branch

October 10
09:06 2023

R102023_231010_Petteril Bridge Junction


At 19:53 hrs on Wednesday 19 October 2022, five tank wagons in a freight train that was conveying cement powder from Clitheroe, Lancashire, to Mossend, near Glasgow, derailed near Petteril Bridge Junction in Carlisle. A number of wagons were damaged and there was significant damage to the track and to the bridge over the River Petteril. This resulted in closure of the routes from Carlisle to Newcastle-?upon-?Tyne and to Settle for seven weeks. No one was injured.

The derailment occurred because one set of wheels on the ninth wagon in the train stopped rotating during the journey. These wheels had stopped rotating up to 55 miles (88 km) before the derailment and continued to slide along the railhead causing considerable damage to the profile of the wheel treads. This meant that the wheels were unable to safely negotiate a set of points just before Petteril Bridge Junction, damaging them and causing the ninth wagon to become derailed. Five of the wagons derailed due to the consequent track damage and two of them fell off the side of the bridge where the railway crosses the River Petteril. The ninth tank wagon was ruptured and landed upside down in the river, although very little of the cement powder was spilled.

The initial wheel slide was probably the result of a normal brake application made in low adhesion conditions that were not abnormal for the route at the time of year. The wheel slide continued because the adhesion between the wheels and the rails was then insufficient for the wheels to restart rotation.

The non-rotating wheels were not identified by the signallers on the route, nor by the train driver or any engineered system, meaning that the train was not stopped before it reached Petteril Bridge Junction.


RAIB has made one recommendation to the railway industry to undertake work to understand the specific risks to freight trains in low adhesion conditions. RAIB has also made two recommendations to the railway industry relating to reviewing the railway Rule Book requirements for stopping and examining trains and the requirements relating to drivers looking back along their trains.

RAIB has also identified one learning point for signallers, reminding them of the circumstances in which they should stop trains for examination.

Notes to editors

  1. The sole purpose of RAIB investigations is to prevent future accidents and incidents and improve railway safety. RAIB does not establish blame, liability or carry out prosecutions.
  2. RAIB operates, as far as possible, in an open and transparent manner. While our investigations are completely independent of the railway industry, we do maintain close liaison with railway companies and if we discover matters that may affect the safety of the railway, we make sure that information about them is circulated to the right people as soon as possible, and certainly long before publication of our final report.
  3. For media enquiries, please call 01932 440015.

Newsdate: 10 October 2023

Published 10 October 2023

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