Our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of those who have lost their lives and those who were injured in the tragic rail incident near Stonehaven.
Scottish Government officials within Transport Scotland are liaising closely with investigating bodies and the rail industry. In addition, I have met with Network Rail and Abellio ScotRail, the Office of Rail and Road, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, and the emergency services and agencies that dealt with this tragic event.
Transport Scotland has also supported Abellio ScotRail to ensure that connectivity to Aberdeen is maintained by replacement buses. Transport Scotland senior officials also participate in regular calls with industry partners to discuss the derailment situation and the recovery arrangements.
I put on record my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and those who were injured and my thanks to the emergency services.
An assessment of the condition of the line and the surrounding area will be of the highest importance and passengers and railway staff will want to have full confidence that everything is being done to ensure the safety of the rail infrastructure and the embankments along the line. Can the cabinet secretary give more detail of what work is being carried out in that regard?
In addition to the on-going investigation by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, Police Scotland, the British Transport Police and the Office of Rail and Road, Network Rail has been asked to provide an immediate assessment of similar risks across the wider Great Britain network, with an interim report expected by 1 September and a full report later this year. Additionally, from my discussions with the lead investigators of the incident at the RAIB and the ORR I understand that any factors identified during the course of their on-going investigation that they believe need to be brought to the attention of the rail authorities will be identified early and brought to the authorities’ attention in order that immediate action can be taken.
The events of last week continue to be extremely traumatic for survivors and the families of those affected and will also have been difficult for the emergency services personnel who attended the scene. In addition, a few of my constituents who work on the railway have got in touch with me to say how upsetting they found the approach to the reporting of the tragedy in
The Sun newspaper, and the insensitive door-stepping of the victims’ families very soon after they received the devastating news. What support are those affected being given to help them?
I am aware that insensitive approaches have been made to families and victims affected by last week’s rail incident. Such approaches are completely and utterly unacceptable and the Scottish Government does not condone that behaviour in any shape or fashion. I hope that those involved in making such insensitive approaches take a long, hard look at themselves and recognise the sensitivity of the matter. I advise Gillian Martin that Abellio ScotRail has met the families of both Brett McCullough and Donald Dinnie and has offered support. In addition, I understand that the rail authorities’ arrangements to offer support to passengers’ families affected by the incident are well advanced.
This tragic accident, which is nothing short of a disaster, has had a massive impact that extends well beyond the toll last Wednesday. How is the Scottish Government assisting third sector organisations to deal with the friends, families and colleagues across the north-east and beyond who have been affected by the incident?
As I mentioned in my response to Gillian Martin, the rail authorities are already taking forward work with appropriate agencies to provide support to those families who have been affected by this tragic incident. However, if the member has in mind a particular third sector body that has been involved in the matter and requires assistance, I am more than happy to give consideration to that. I can assure the member, though, that assistance is being provided where it is sought and that the rail authorities have put arrangements in place to ensure that.
The cabinet secretary will know that the men and women of the railway family across the network will be marking one week since this disaster with a one minute silence at 9.33 tomorrow. Those affected will be in all our thoughts at that time. Does the cabinet secretary agree in principle that the rail disaster near Stonehaven should lead to accelerated investment in improving the safe running of trains between Aberdeen and Dundee and must not result, however inadvertently, in any avoidable delay?
The member has raised an important issue, but it would be wrong for me to pre-empt the outcome of any of the investigations that are taking place across four different agencies.
The member will also appreciate that the operation, maintenance and renewal of the rail network is regulated by the Office of Rail and Road, which makes determinations every five years as part of its periodic review process of any operational, maintenance and renewal matters that need to be taken forward, including safety, within a control period. Clearly, depending on the outcome of the various investigations being taken forward, it would be for the ORR to look at whether determinations need to be made to Network Rail for further enhancement, maintenance or renewal works to be undertaken on the particular line. However, at this stage, it is too early to say what the exact causes of the incident were and what measures need to be put in place to prevent an event of this type from occurring again.