Three dead, including driver, after train derailment 'caused by landslip'

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·6-min read
  • A major incident has been declared after a train derailed in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

  • Three people, including the driver, were pronounced dead at the scene

  • Six people have also been taken to hospital

  • Sources say the derailing happened in a landslip, which followed heavy flooding in the Stonehaven area

  • Boris Johnson thanked the emergency services attending the scene and said he is “saddened” to hear about the incident

Three people, including the driver and conductor, have died after a train derailed in Scotland.

They were pronounced dead at the scene in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.

A major incident was declared after the train derailed on Wednesday morning.

Six people have also been taken to hospital, the British Transport Police (BTP) said, though they are not thought to have suffered serious injuries.

Emergency services inspect the scene following a train derailment near Stonehaven, Scotland, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. British Transport Police say three people died and six were taken to the hospital with injuries after a passenger train derailed in northeast Scotland after heavy rain and flooding. The train driver and conductor are believed to be among the dead, but formal identification is pending. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
Emergency services attend the train derailment near Stonehaven, Scotland, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
Emergency services inspect the scene following a train derailment near Stonehaven, Scotland, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. British Transport Police say three people died and six were taken to the hospital with injuries after a passenger train derailed in northeast Scotland after heavy rain and flooding. The train driver and conductor are believed to be among the dead, but formal identification is pending. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
Emergency services inspect the scene. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

Press Association (PA) sources in the rail industry say the suspected cause of the incident was a landslip, in which the locomotive and three carriages derailed, sliding down an embankment. It followed severe flooding in Stonehaven.

The ScotRail train involved was the 06:38 service from Aberdeen, made up of the locomotive and four carriages.

Boris Johnson said he was “saddened to learn of the very serious incident in Aberdeenshire and my thoughts are with all of those affected”, and thanked emergency services.

He later told Sky News: “One of the reasons that this accident is so shocking is of course that this type of accident on our railways is thankfully so rare.

“But our thoughts are very much with those who’ve lost their lives, their families and of course those who’ve been injured in the derailment.”

He added it is “probably a very good idea to look at the effect of substantial rainfall on all our vulnerable infrastructure everywhere”.

He said he understood a month’s worth of rainfall had come down in a “very short period”, but an investigation would have to run its course to determine what happened.

Nicola Sturgeon said the train derailing is "extremely serious". (PA Images/BBC Scotland)
Nicola Sturgeon said the train derailing is "extremely serious". (PA Images/BBC Scotland)
Emergency vehicles at the scene. (PA Images)
Emergency vehicles at the scene. (PA Images)

The BTP said the train driver is “believed” to have died and the RMT union told PA the conductor was one of the three victims.

Responding to the confirmation of three deaths on Wednesday, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “My deepest condolences are with the loved ones of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident.”

Kevin Lindsay, Scotland organiser for the Aslef train drivers union, said: “Our thoughts tonight are with all those who died, and who were injured, in the tragic accident at Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire.

“While it is too early to speculate about the causes of the crash, it would seem that the appalling weather conditions in the area – the torrential rain – resulted in a landslip which, in turn, caused the train to derail.

“The train, which was a service from Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street, rolled down a steep embankment, and caught fire.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said six ambulances, special operations response teams, air ambulance, patient transport vehicles and the Scottish Specialist Transport and Retrieval team were all in attendance.

The BTP said officers were called out at 9.43am.

Emergency services near to the derailed train. (PA Images)
Emergency services near to the derailed train. (PA Images)

Chief Superintendent Eddie Wylie said: “This is a tragic incident and first and foremost our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have very sadly died this morning.

“We remain on scene alongside our emergency service colleagues, and a major incident operation has been underway. I would like to reassure the public that this was not a busy service, and from CCTV enquiries and witness statements we believe all passengers have been accounted for.

Emergency vehicles and personnel at Carmont crossing. (PA Images)
Emergency vehicles and personnel at Carmont crossing. (PA Images)

“However, once the area has been made safe then a full and thorough search will be conducted, which is likely to take some time.”

He added that the BTP will work with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and Office of Rail and Road to “establish the full circumstances of how the train came to derail”.

Up to 30 emergency vehicles were at the scene, according to one BBC reporter.

Footage shows smoke rising from the train tracks and an air ambulance at the site.

The passenger train travelling from Aberdeen just outside Stonehaven. (PA Graphics)
The passenger train travelling from Aberdeen just outside Stonehaven. (PA Graphics)

ScotRail, which serves Stonehaven with trains heading north to Aberdeen and south to Edinburgh and Glasgow, said it was assisting the emergency services.

Mairi Gougeon, who represents Angus North and Mearns in the Scottish Parliament, said Stonehaven had suffered from “severe flooding”.

Andrew Bowie, the Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: “I don’t think speculation is helpful at this stage. We obviously don’t know why the derailment took place, but obviously we have suffered terrible weather here.”

Earlier in the day, Network Rail Scotland had tweeted about landslips affecting its services.

The Scottish Conservative leader in Holyrood, Ruth Davidson, said her party’s thoughts were with those in the incident, and said: “It is clear that this incident is serious and it will have affected a number of families across Scotland.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “My thoughts are with everyone involved in the serious incident in Aberdeenshire.

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said the government would “provide every support”.

He later said: “I want to pay tribute to the emergency services and rail workers, who have responded so quickly in these distressing circumstances, and I will be visiting Stonehaven tomorrow to thank them in person and see what assistance we can provide.

“The safety of passengers and staff is and has always been our upmost priority and we will ensure that lessons are learned from this tragic incident once the Rail Accident Investigation Branch has carried out its investigation.”

National Rail said: “Emergency services are dealing with an incident near Stonehaven and this is causing disruption between Aberdeen and Glasgow Queen Street / Edinburgh.

“Trains may be cancelled or amended. Disruption is expected to continue until the end of the day.”

Anyone concerned about friends or family can contact the BTP’s casualty bureau number on 0141 775 5122.