Railway Accidents

Railway accidents are comparatively rare but their consequences can be very severe, involving many injuries and loss of life. A high speed crash or derailment is inevitably very high profile in the media and can cause disruption to transport links for many weeks. The nature of the equipment involved often means that even 'minor' incidents can have significant operational and financial consequences. We have investigated incidents such as: 

  • Derailments
  • Collisions with objects on the track
  • Collisions with vehicles on level crossings
  • Potential inadequate maintenance of track and rolling stock
  • Mechanical failure of the permanent way and rolling stock
  • Fires on trains and in the load on trains

Hawkins has the expertise to investigate all types of incidents and has been involved in the investigations of high profile incidents such as:

  • Potters Bar
  • Selby
  • Hatfield
  • Ladbroke Grove
  • Tebay


The main reason we are appointed is to try to establish the cause of the incident and then to assist with:

  • Establishing where legal liability lies
  • To consider if there are relevant contributory factors
  • To attempt to avoid further incidents of the same type
  • To ascertain if there are recovery prospects from parties other than those instructing us


Our investigations usually start with a site visit and considering witness evidence. Obtaining the witness evidence is usually the first step in establishing a narrative of events and is often important in determining the cause. A typical investigation might include:

  • Statements from the driver(s) and train crew(s) and witnesses
  • Inspection and examination of track, signals, locomotive(s) and rolling stock
  • Inspection of maintenance records of track work, signalling, locomotives and rolling stock
  • Laboratory examination of parts and equipment

Liaison with official agencies is an important part of rail investigation and Hawkins is well versed in dealing with the British Transport Police (BTP), the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR), the Railway Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), Network Rail and its subcontractors, the Fire Brigade, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). We also often work with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) in sharing factual information.

A high speed crash or derailment is inevitably very high profile in the media and can cause disruption to transport links for many weeks

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