Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers - Cork Train Derailments.


asked the Minister for Communications if he is aware that two trains have recently derailed in the vicinity of Kent station, Cork, and that many CIE workers believe that the worsening ground and track conditions have been responsible for the mishaps; and if, in view of the fact that the trains carry 160,000 tonnes of ammonia through the station each year and the serious consequences that would follow from an accident involving one of these trains, he will indicate if he is satisfied with the safety standards operating in the area.

The criteria used in assessing standards for safety in CIE trains are determined by CIE.

I am informed by CIE that their safety rules and regulations are in accordance with international standards and that implementation is monitored on a daily basis by area inspectors who travel on trains and locomotives. CIE have also informed me that all train crews and signalmen must be certified by a senior officer of the railway as competent to perform their duties and are re-examined in the rules and regulations proper to their duties on an annual basis.

In general, the methods of railway operation are not covered by statutory regulations. My Department's statutory functions regarding rail safety are mainly related to the investigation of rail accidents and to the inspection by the Department's railway inspecting officer of new or reconstructed railway installations.

Under the legislation, CIE are required to notify my Department of rail accidents.

CIE have indicated that there is no difficulty with ground conditions in the vicinity of Kent station and that trackwork in this area continues to be maintained in a satisfactory condition for passenger and freight traffic, including ammonia trains.

Furthermore, CIE have advised me that, in addition to routine on-going maintenance, the board had commenced a major scheme for rationalisation of trackwork and signalling in Cork station. This work will extend over three years.

The board have assured me that every effort is being made to prevent any recurrence of the types of incidents which took place in the vicinity of Kent station in recent months.

The Minister's assurance are very welcome but he will appreciate that there is concern because of two derailments having taken place within a short time of each other. Can the Minister tell us if, as the belief of the workforce involved in Kent station is that the condition of the track and the ground subsidence were major causes of the recent derailment, these have now been effectively repaired.

I want to reiterate my concern at the few incidents which have taken place in the vicinity of Kent station. As I have told the Deputy, there is a major three year programme to update the trackwork and so on in that area. I have been assured by CIE that steps have been taken to avoid a repeat of those incidents. I have expressed my extreme concern about this matter to CIE and they are in no doubt about how strongly I feel about their duty to ensure safety, not only in Kent station but throughout the rail network.

I understand that an inquiry was held into the cause of the derailment — presumably both derailments. Can the Minister indicate the result of this inquiry and the cause of the derailment? Could he also state what specific steps were taken in order to prevent a recurrence?

It is true that the area inspecting officer visited Kent station late last year to investigate the whole area, at my request. He has made certain recommendations to CIE and put certain points to them which I understand have been taken up. I hope that there will be no recurrence.

Is the Minister aware that an additional incident occurred on 31 January 1985 involving an ammonia trailer? Could he inform the House of the outcome of his investigation into that incident?

That is a separate question.

A final supplementary question from Deputy De Rossa.

It is not really good enough for the Minister to say that that is a separate question. He has already assured us that steps had been taken following the derailment——

There is another question dealing with that, Question No. 69.

The Minister indicated that following the derailment in November adequate steps had been taken to ensure that it did not happen again. Now Deputy Allen indicates that a further incident has occurred. Could the Minister tell us what specific steps CIE are taking to prevent a recurrence of these derailments?

All I can tell the House is that, following the visit of the area inspecting officer, certain points were made to CIE. They were left in no doubt as to how seriously I viewed the situation and they have assured me that all reasonable steps have been taken to prevent a recurrence.

What is wrong with telling us what steps have been taken?

The remaining questions will appear on tomorrow's Order Paper.