29 July 2009

Landslide-induced train accident in China

Posted by Dave Petley

The landslide misery in China continues, despite the strange lack of typhoons to date this summer. The latest incident occurred in Liuzhou City of Guangxi Province when a train struck a landslide and derailed. According to Xinhua four people were killed and 50 others were injured, at least ten of whom were seriously hurt. Xinhua has published a photograph of the aftermath of the incident:

Thus it appears that the landslide was comparatively small and occurred on a slope associated with a railway cutting.

This week there was also a (non-fatal) train derailment caused by a landslide near to Wellington in New Zealand (image from 3 News):

Earthworks failures on railway systems are surprisingly common. For example, Glendinning et al. (2009) reported the following for the UK rail network:

“Between January 2000 and March 2002, 91 earthwork slips occurred, each causing more that 750 minutes of train delays on Network Rail. While it is possible that the rate of failure on railway slopes may have reached equilibrium, this seems unlikely as the number of recorded earthworks failures rose from 47 in 2003/04 to 107 in 2007/08.”

Fortunately of course the vast majority of slope failures on the railway network cause no more than disruption, but the potential for greater impact is always present.


S. Glendinning, J. Hall and L. Manning 2009. Asset-management strategies for infrastructure embankments. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers Engineering Sustainability 162, 111-20.