My kids were seconds from losing their dad

Image from the forward-facing camera in the train involved in the incident. Photo: First TransPennine Express
Image from the forward-facing camera in the train involved in the incident. Photo: First TransPennine Express
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One of the rail workers who cheated death when a 98mph train narrowly missed them said the terrifying incident has ruined his life.

Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, the 25-year-old dad said he still has flashbacks to the day when he and his workmates were forced to leap out of the way of an oncoming Edinburgh to Manchester Airport train with just four seconds to spare.

A First Transpennine Express train.

A First Transpennine Express train.

The nine track workers, including contract staff and a controller of site safety employed by Network Rail, were packing ballast under sleepers on the up (towards London) mainline on a small bridge near Hest Bank when the incident happened last September.

It was reminiscent of the Tebay tragedy which claimed the lives of four men 11 years ago.

One of the nine, who does not wish to be named, has now received compensation from Network Rail for the distress caused.

But the rail worker, who lives in Skerton, said he is still awaiting an apology and an explanation from Network Rail for what happened.

The railway line at Hest Bank close to where the incident happened.

The railway line at Hest Bank close to where the incident happened.

The dad-of-two, who has a third child due later this month, was working as a trackman doing general maintenance and was part of a team contracted out by Network Rail to work on the local lines when the incident happened.

He said: “We had started the day on a job at St Chad’s and everything was working perfectly fine.

“I remember it was a boiling hot day. After dinner we went up to Hest Bank and as we walked to the site we noticed the equipment failing, which meant we had lost contact with the lookout post two miles up the track.

“New batteries were brought down for the equipment but they hadn’t been charged as long as normal.

“When we checked the equipment afterwards, it didn’t even show anything was wrong, even though a train had just come through.

“There was a clear sight down the track for three or four miles yet we had no warning.

The four carriage TransPennine Express train travelled past the men at 98mph, snapping in two a shovel which had been abandoned on the track when the men jumped clear.

The railwayman said: “If the controller of site safety (COSS) hadn’t just happened to look up and see the train coming and screamed at us to get out of the way, we would have all been dead.

“Afterwards it felt like it hadn’t happened. How could something like that happen when all the safety checks are meant to have been made.

“I will never understand how it happened, these things shouldn’t happen.

“I still don’t know how we all got out of it alive.

“One of our shovels was left on the line and it was cut in half by the train; thank God that’s all that was left behind or the train could have derailed.”

The rail worker, who is employed on a zero hours contract and is paid £8.25 an hour, saw his doctor two weeks after the incident, having suffered with nightmares and flashbacks.

He was referred to Ridge Lea hospital, where he was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

He said: “That day was absolutely horrible and for months afterwards I couldn’t sleep or eat, and I was having flashbacks.

“I still struggle to sleep now, and I barely leave the house.”

The Skerton man had been working on the railways for about a year when the incident occurred.

He said: “I had settled down and was happier than I had been in my life and then this happened.

“Going into a job like that you know what it involves but you are told there’s that many safety measures nowadays that nothing can happen to you.

“I loved that job, but now I don’t want to be there. I have lost all trust and all focus.

“Ever since that day I have seen life completely differently, it has completely ruined me, I don’t feel like myself any more.

“I have been back to work but it’s on my mind constantly.

“I can’t do the job, I would freeze whenever a train went past. I wasn’t working properly because I was always looking over my shoulder for a train.

“I can’t put myself through it any more; the railway is too dangerous to mess about with.

“You are in a dangerous job and you have to trust them. All I want is an apology and to know why it happened.

“I just want to be able to get on with my life, I have had enough.

“I have my whole life ahead of me and that was nearly taken away from me, and my kids were four seconds from losing their dad.”

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is still carrying out its independent investigation on the incident, which happened south of Hest Bank between Carnforth and Lancaster on September 22.

However, findings so far have shown that the train was travelling at 98mph as it passed the group at a location where the maximum permitted speed is 125mph.

A lookout-operated warning system (LOWS) was being used to give warning of approaching trains because of the group’s restricted view.

But they received no advance warning that the train was approaching and had to leap to safety with four seconds to spare.

The RAIB said: “They were forced to take immediate evasive action when the train first became visible.

“Some staff were unable to reach a safe position and pressed themselves against the bridge parapet.”

Examination of the LOWS equipment and its data-logger, and detailed testing, has concluded that it was working correctly at the time of the incident.

The investigation will therefore seek to understand the reasons why no warning was provided and any other factors that may have led to the incident, and identify any safety lessons.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We are aware of the claim being made but are unable to comment on individual cases.”