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Elephant & Castle fire is a ‘wake up call’ for Network Rail

The recent fire at Elephant & Castle station should act as a “wake up call” for Network Rail, according to a fire safety expert.

The fire broke out last Monday in a car workshop in one of the commercial units under the arches. It was caused by an electrical fault within a vehicle.

Mosen managing director Fathi Tarada emphasised the importance of ensuring the units under the arches are used safely by businesses.

“Network Rail needs to think about the risks posed by uncontrolled combustible materials in railway arches,” he told NCE.

“It’s probably a wake up call if Network Rail is prepared to listen and to engage in conversations with tenants.

“Network Rail has a duty to ensure public infrastructure is protected operationally and strategically.”

Tarada suggested that a car workshop business, for example, could be told that it can store vehicles but needs to drain away their fuel to mitigate the fire risk.

Network Rail said it has opened an “in-depth investigation into the fire” and stressed that this is “typical for any similar incident” affecting its infrastructure.

“This will take account of many factors, including the London Fire Brigade investigation, input from other sources such as independent fire safety experts, and will take several weeks to complete,” a spokesperson said.

“Safety is our top priority and we’re working to understand how this happened and what need to learn to ensure a fire like this won’t happen again.”

Safety concerns have previously been raised that Network Rail’s recent sale of assets – mostly converted railway arches – could lead to safety issues as engineers will not be able to properly inspect them.

However the Network Rail spokesperson emphasised that its inspection regime has continued after the sale.

“Network Rail leased its commercial property estate including over 5,200 railway arches for 150 years to The Arch Company in February 2019,” the spokesperson said.

“The general inspection regime we have for the protection of our structures and rail passengers remains in place. We work closely with The Arch Company to ensure the continued safe operation of the railway including the prohibition of various uses and actions by tenants.

“We conduct inspections of the arches and these are managed by our inspections team and assured by an expert Network Rail team. We will investigate what happened as part of the continuous review of our safety regime.”

Around 100 firefighters and 15 fire engines tackled the “serious” blaze last week, with three commercial units under the arches “completely alight”, along with four cars and a telephone box near the station.

There was no structural damage as a result of the fire, and train services resumed the next day following work by engineers to repair signalling and cables.

There was, however, damage to the domestic power supply meaning the station temporarily had no lighting, information screens, ticket purchasing facilities or Oyster card readers.

Source https://www.newcivilengineer.com/latest/elephant-castle-fire-is-a-wake-up-call-for-network-rail-08-07-2021/

Department of Civil Engineering https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-civil-engineering/