Rail accident prevention is reserved to UK Department of Transport: SNP called for devolution of infrastructure in 2019 General Election

There has been much confusion as to why Grant Shapps and Boris Johnson have been commenting on the above accident. Scotland’s media have been less than clear about where responsibility for the inspection and accident prevention lies – London.

As far as I can see, rail accident prevention is a reserved matter and the Scottish Government has no effective role in this:

Transport safety and regulation, including “regulation of aviation and
shipping marine and air safety, rail safety and regulation (except for
appropriate oversight by the Scottish Executive of Scottish passenger rail
services), and some aspects of road traffic regulation”; transport
security; driver and vehicle licensing and testing; road haulage; vehicle
standards; general speed limits; marine, air and rail accident prevention
and investigation
; some other aspects of road safety and technical
standards relating to the transport of disabled people would be reserved
to the UK Parliament
. In the event, Schedule 5, Part II, Head E the Scotland Act 1998, as amended, prescribes those areas reserved to the UK Parliament; everything else is devolved.

House of Commons, BRIEFING PAPER Number SN03156, 12 June 2017
Transport in Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland

That this is the legal position is clear when we hear HM Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser, say: ‘ORR inspectors are on site at Stonehaven, assisting in the preliminary investigation. We will work with other agencies, including the emergency services, to find out exactly what happened and identify the causes of this tragic incident.’

In November 2019, the SNP manifesto called for change:

SNP: decarbonising the railways and building better infrastructure. The SNP manifesto pledges to make public transport “better and greener”. The manifesto stressed that the franchise-owned method of running the railways while the infrastructure sits with Network Rail “isn’t working.” Unlike the Labour manifesto which spoke of nationalising the railways, SNP said it will hand it over to the public sector. “We will insist our railways are run here in Scotland and that they can be run by the public sector. “We support the overdue and necessary change to full Scottish public sector control of the structure, governance and operation of the Scottish railway system,” it said.


14 thoughts on “Rail accident prevention is reserved to UK Department of Transport: SNP called for devolution of infrastructure in 2019 General Election”

  1. The bbc are pulling a different truck with current sad stories like this one. We were horrified to hear Johnson being the spokesperson for a reaction to this. Obviously, and in previous similar cases, everyone would pile onto the Scottish transport minister.
    This is an opportunity for blatant Westminsterisation of a story.

    I’ve just seen elsewhere on the bbc that ‘the environment agency’ has issued flood warnings for various parts of our glorious kingdom:
    ‘ The Environment Agency said 10 properties in Lancashire were also affected by flooding following storms.
    It has issued flood alerts for certain areas in England and Scotland, which are separate from the weather warnings issued by the Met Office.’

    The fight is getting dirty quickly now.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Sad day.
    I think it is more relevant that ownership of Network Rail (NR) is reserved to ukg despite many calls from the FM for it to be devolved. UK control of Rail Accident prevention agency not an issue for me as it has already highlighted the heightened risk of landslips and flooding due to climate change.
    It was and is up to NR to allocated funds to identify sites at risk and mitigate those risks.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Some opposition MSPs have not hesitated to ignore the role of Network Rail in train delays and cancellations (NR responsible for about 54% of delays and cancellations last time I looked). The Scottish government gets all the blame for train delays.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. According to the STV weather man, Sean Batty, the amount of rain that fell in an hour overnight in the area of the train crash was equal to that amount that typically fell in 22 to 23 days. The question to be answered, perhaps, is what, if anything, Network Rail could be expected to do to anticipate the possibility of immediate landslide as a result of the rain on this stretch of line. On all stretches of line.


    1. For the anticipation aspect Sam, the technology is already available and inexpensive, it is a matter of priority of funding/return. Perhaps losing carriages and the costs of clearing up this incident will give them pause to think again.
      Areas prone to flooding or landslip are well enough known across the entire Scottish network, and there are a variety of cheap sensors which could set off alarms and warn a train to slow as a precaution, or send a drone to investigate if the line was clear.
      In this case the driver would only be aware of the problem at the last minute, too late to slow or stop.
      Granted the rain intensity was extraordinary, but a sign of things to come I suggest.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. CH4 news actually covered this issue – advanced warning/surveillence systems – in its report last night on the crash. If I remember it was in an interview with a rail expert and editor(?) of the Rail Magazine. It was actually quite informative.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The local Aberdeen-Montrose 2B14 passed the site with derailed train 1T08 chasing on its tail, and ran on time all the way

        The down local service 2B13 arrived 9 minutes late at Stonehaven where it was terminated due to flooding issues. It passed Carmont at 06.58 (on time) , 2 minutes before 1T08 was due to pass Carmont, Southbound (07.00) – thus the down service lost 9 minutes in travelling 5.5 miles (flooding?) & passed 1T08 on its way South


  5. Thanls for the clarification on the complicated back-story to railways in Scotland, it has so many strands to it and Shapps involvement is understood, but when ever did any of these clowns bother their backsides before?
    For all the tragedy of the Stonehaven derailment it’s blatantly obvious the Tories are on a PR mission, front and centre for any photo-op in Scotland’s affairs, presumably with the smirking Bowie steering it and ambulance chasing as appropriate.
    ABC will have been coordinated for the jingo unfolding in the next week, studiously avoiding any hint of blame for HMG of course, but how they’re going to spin the traditional SG bad out of it ?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been told by a relative who works for a rail maintenance company that Network Rail still employ people called rail walkers, who walk the tracks looking for defects, in the belief that the naked eye is better at spotting faults that any device. How often this takes place I don’t know, or of course, when this stretch of track was last inspected.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. [Modern British railways is a hobby.]
      Network Rail use a mixture of specialist train based track monitoring equipment as well as traditional walking the line. They are complimentary. Details of the ‘new measurement train’ (NMT) available at
      A couple of decades ago tracks used to be walked daily but now a lot less frequent and often done in response to data collected by the NMT.
      Regarding the derailment, I am surprised that nobody has raised the possibility that the track collapsed or spread at the train passed over. A 2+4 set of the type involved is heavier that the 2 car sets used for local services. Pure speculation on my part but based on the pictures in the MSM


  7. It says there ‘after only weeks NR warned about the risk’. Presume they ‘warned’ the UK government in London of the ‘risk’. The Scottish government will be asking some serious questions at FMQ’s next week. They must ensure to inform the people of Scotland that this utterly tragic accident is due to wilful Tory party negligence.


  8. The section from Carmont to Stonehaven is prone to landslips and Network Rail are well aware of it.
    If this train has struck a landslip, it isn’t the first time a train has struck a landslip in this section.
    I know this because I used to be a signalman and have worked Carmont and Stonehaven boxes.


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