THE Hatfield derailment of October 17, 2000 was a watershed moment for Britain’s railway, and most railway engineers around at the time would rather forget the ‘nervous breakdown’ the system experienced in the months that followed.
The infrastructure owner Railtrack went into something of a commercial tailspin, but it was clear that whatever organisation emerged in the aftermath (which turned out to be Network Rail), a higher standard of track maintenance and monitoring was going to be imperative.
Led by chief engineer Andrew McNaughton, a plan for an improved track monitoring train for the principal routes was developed. This would be able to hold its own amongst the burgeoning number of 125mph services, making it easier to find paths compared with the slower loco-hauled set then in use and, in turn, also be able to run more frequently. Consideration had been given to ordering a completely new train along the lines of a ‘Voyager’ DMU, but the need to have at least some freedom to mount monitoring kit below solebar level (unencumbered by underfloor engines), together with concerns over cost, tended to dictate another solution.
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