Packed train seconds from disaster in bridge collapse

The collapsed viaduct over the Malahide estuary. The collapse has caused chaos on the rail network and repair work is expected to take several weeks Allison Bray – 22 August 2009 TWO rush-hour commuter trains packed with hundreds of passengers were just seconds away from disaster last night when a section of track dramatically plunged into the water moments after they passed over it. Miraculously, nobody was killed after a 20-metre section of viaduct over Malahide estuary collapsed on the main Dublin-Belfast line seconds after a driver pulled into Malahide station in north Dublin. But travel chaos ensued for hundreds of passengers stranded in Malahide and major disruption is expected in the weeks to come. The bridge sank into the fast flowing water of the estuary -- just after a train from Balbriggan to Dublin city centre crossed over at about 6.25pm. And less than five minutes before that, a full northbound commuter train with hundreds of passengers on board passed over the viaduct, at 6.20pm en route to Dundalk. Subsidence on the line at the Malahide estuary is believed to be the cause of the viaduct collapse. Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny said the incident was very serious and could have resulted in widespread tragedy were it not for a quick-thinking train driver. The driver noticed signs of subsidence on the track as he was crossing at around 6.25pm. He immediately stopped the train in Malahide and alerted Irish Rail which suspended all services on the northern line. "He was extremely observant and he immediately raised the alert," he said, noting that the railway control centre also received a red alert on its computer system as the bridge collapsed. "The scale of the potential for disaster was enormous," he said. "The fact that nobody was hurt and there wasn't a derailment doesn't take away from the fact that this was very close to being a very serious tragedy," Mr Kenny said. All rail services were suspended in either direction from Howth Junction last night as engineers raced to the scene of the collapse.

There are cables sticking out of the bridge and two of the arches have fallen into the water. Despite the mayhem. whose 6. There would have been major loss of life with the likelihood of a derailed train ending up in the sea. Irish Rail expects it will announce a contingency plan for Northern commuter passengers by next week. said that a potential tragedy had been averted only by seconds. which is responsible for the Republic of Ireland’s railway network and rolling stock." Mr Kenny said. she added. "It is a very lengthy disruption we're facing. Mr Kenny said. Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail)." she said. "Tonight the focus is very much on assessing the site but we'll definitely be able to advise people who are commuting by Monday. long-time Malahide resident Joan McAllister." he said.The Railway Accident Investigation Unit was also called out to the scene last night to investigate the cause of the bridge collapse. said local resident Des Byrne. whose kitchen on Upper Strand overlooks the estuary. People are getting off trains and don't know what to do. said her husband glanced out the window and saw two of the viaducts arches give way and collapse into the sea. Meanwhile." she said. "Both tracks are gone." he said. who was due to travel non-stop south to Dublin. "It's causing chaos.independent. "There were people sailing on sailboards who didn't even notice. http://www. The deck section collapsed after a supporting masonry pier underneath crumbled. halted his train at Malahide station just south of the bridge after noticing serious subsidence in the trackbed as his train passed over. He .ie/irish-news/packed-train-seconds-from-disaster-in-bridge-collapse26560282. It will be measured in weeks. Stranded Bus transfers were being arranged last night for alternative transport for passengers on the Enterprise line while thousands of stranded DART and commuter passengers were advised to seek alternative transport on Dublin Bus or Bus Eireann. A raised alarm The alarm was raised by driver Keith Farrelly. No-one was injured when a 20m section of the 176m-long bridge over the Broadmeadow Estuary between Malahide and Donabate stations in north County Dublin broke up on Friday 21 August just moments after a commuter train passed along the twin-track line. Train services will be suspended north of Howth Junction this weekend and there will be serious disruption to regular commuter service north of Malahide and on the Enterprise line between Dublin and Belfast for weeks to come. some people in the area didn't even notice what was going on. Packed commuter trains carrying hundreds of people had been using the line minutes before the structural failure. But across the estuary in Malahide it was another story with hundreds of confused commuter train and DART passengers milling about at the station trying to find alternative transport.17pm Balbriggan to Dublin Connolly train was the last to pass over the viaduct before the collapse. The bridge had been given the all-clear by engineers after a warning from a member of the public just days before part of it fell into the sea.html Scour revealed as cause of Irish bridge collapse 3 September 2009 | By Diarmaid Fleming Scour undermining a Victorian masonry bridge pier has been identified as the likely cause of a near-disastrous collapse of a section of railway viaduct on the Dublin-to-Belfast main line. Farrelly.

The viaduct (see box below) consists of a prestressed precast deck resting on masonry piers dating from 1860. who has been canoeing in the estuary for more than 20 years. On the day of the collapse. We assumed they were fully aware and knew what was happening. connecting thetwo largest cities in Ireland. The structure and its history The twin-track Malahide Viaduct carries the Dublin-Belfast “Enterprise” service. with more than 8. and greater for more extreme tides. “We thought that this had been something done by Irish Rail. so didn’t report it immediately when it was first noticed in July.85m. The railway bridge over the Broadmeadow Estuary originally dates back to 1844.” Photographs taken by the group in July show that the channel in the weir created a v-notch effect.000t of rock added to the weir between 1915 and 1924. The bridge had been inspected and passed as safe in the days before the collapse following warnings from local canoeists .5m. leading to increased water flow and pressure.000t of rock added to the weir between 1915 and 1924. A rock weir to reduce tidal flows between the piers runs along the length of the bridge. with a waterfall effect as water cascades over the structure.was being hailed a hero after raising the alarm. “It was like it had been gouged out by a JCB. the difference between the water retained upstream of the weir and the sea is around 3. although movement sensors would also have alerted track controllers as to the unfolding collapse. told NCE that members of group had noticed in July that a channel had developed in the weir. A member of a local sea scout group. Engineering archives reveal that scour was an issue during construction and afterwards. this was shortly before 6pm. Nine piers are centred at 15. as well as freight trains servicing Tara Mines in County Meath north of Dublin. with the abutment and first and last piers at each end centred at 12.25m. At typical low tide. The 11 piers are gravity structures without piled foundations. with a rock weir built in between the piers to mitigate tidal flows between the elements ultimately supporting the railway line. The bridge had been inspected and passed as safe in the days before the collapse following warnings to Irish Rail from local canoeists who use the estuary. commuter services for burgeoning new satellite towns north of Dublin and beyond. Engineering archives reveal that scour was an issue during construction and afterwards. before the timber frame was replaced with a wrought iron structure and masonry piers in 1860.” he said. . with more than 8.

This assessment identified that there were no visible structural issues.” the IÉ statement said. simply supported over the masonry piers which had new bedding stones added at the top to support the concrete structure.and normalising water flows and protecting adjacent piers. supported by the rebuilt pier.” the company said. with ultimately the forces of water pressure widening the breach quickly.” Iarnród Éireann statement “Recent low tides. after repairing the breached weir . It added that the marks were unrelated to the collapse. the company said it had been alerted to concerns about “markings” observed on the piers and erosion to the piers. and their input concerning their observations of the water in the viaduct area” was “crucial in helping to establish our primary line of inquiry” focusing on a “recent and significant erosion of the seabed” near the pier which collapsed. indicating there were no deviations in the track. “It is believed that in a relatively short timeframe. and that all markings were cosmetic. Crucial assistance In its statement the company said that the estuary users “have been of great assistance to Iarnród Éireann’s investigation. The company said it planned to rebuild the collapsed pier and strengthen those on either side of it to provide a new seat for deck beams which will span from these.A new viaduct was completed between 1966 and 1967 during short line possessions. This would have resulted in changes to water flow. Irish Rail has established an investigation committee. said it was clear to his group that the water flow under the bridge had altered considerably. possibly in recent weeks. which covers 2. It estimates this will take three months to complete. a small breach occurred in a causeway plateau within the seabed. Other members are fellow Irish Rail board member Michael Giblin and UK consultant John Buxton. and that a track monitoring vehicle also travelled the line on 20 August. replacing the wrought-iron structure with a prestressed precast concrete deck. who does not wish to be named. would have seen the volume and speed of water flowing out of the estuary increasing. Detailed inspection The company has also ordered a detailed inspection of all bridges and viaducts spanning running water across the Irish rail network. . Cementation was contracted to pressure-grout and stabilise the weir. with increased water pressure on the area. chaired by company board member and former managing director of the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Phil Gaffney. resulting in the collapse of the pier on Friday evening *21 August+. the day before the collapse. causing water pressures to increase. “The effect on the causeway plateau and seabed would ultimately result in the sudden and catastrophic undermining of the pier supports from below water level. “Iarnród Éireann responded promptly to this call by arranging for an engineer to inspect the viaduct and its piers on Tuesday 18 August. In a written statement to NCE. coupled with major rainfall on Wednesday *19 which has already begun .288km of track. The scout member. Irish Rail says it will reinstate the collapsed section and not rebuild the entire structure. “It is believed that in a relatively short timeframe a small breach occurred in a causeway plateau within the seabed. prompting a call to Irish Rail on 17 August. Assisting the investigation are University College Cork professor of hydraulics Éamon McKeogh and Dr Eric Farrell of the geotechnical department at University College Dublin.

making it one of the least safe stretches of infrastructure in the country. examining the track and track bed “as well as monitoring the condition of the viaduct as visible from the track”. Ireland has seen record rainfall over the past three years. the viaduct is subject to thrice weekly inspections by patrol staff walking the line. All bridges and viaducts are subject to a full inspection every two years. Inspection regime Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) says that in addition to drivers being required to report any unusual track conditions. Scour inspections by engineer divers at viaducts take place every six years. The commission also said the network’s EM50 track inspection vehicle gave inaccurate readings. Since then. Inspection and maintenance procedures and reports are also to be examined (see box). The last such inspection of the Malahide Viaduct was in October 2007. The Irish minister for transport. with July the wettest month on record. He also demanded urgent information on similar structures and the cause of the accident. However. with the last inspection at Malahide in 2006 revealing “no scour issues”. the largest the structure encounters from the Enterprise service between Dublin and Belfast.nce. Noel Dempsey. A track-monitoring vehicle − the EM50 − travels every section of track across the network every six months. a schedule it says is in accordance with the Irish Railway Safety Commission’s requirements. The last such inspection of the Malahide Viaduct was in October 2007 and the next is scheduled for next month.Investigators into the Malahide collapse are also to examine tidal and climatic issues. The company said the next diving inspection was not due until 2012. The report said that detailed records did not exist for the structure and that some maintenance procedures resulted from informal instruction. while all bridges and viaducts are subject to a full inspection every two years. it indicated that a number of the shortcomings identified had been rectified after the accident. The bridge was designed for 20t axle loads. A 1998 safety examination report covering the entire network in the Republic of Ireland by International Risk Management Services for the Irish government gave the viaduct a 40% “safety inadequacy” rating and the embankment a 60% rating. a major infrastructure investment programme has been under way. including under-measuring track cant by up to 50%.article . according to Irish Rail. expressed his relief that no one had been killed in the A report into a cement train derailment at Cahir in October 2003 by the Railway Safety Commission cited serious shortcomings in Irish Rail’s asset management and maintenance procedures relating to the accident at the time.