NETWORK Rail has pleaded guilty to health and safety failings in the Stonehaven tragedy which killed three people in 2020.

The UK Government-owned organisation, which owns British rail infrastructure, admitted in the High Court in Aberdeen that it had failed to protect passengers and staff from the “risk of serious injury and death from train derailment”.

Train driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62, died in the derailment near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, on August 12, 2020.

Network Rail accepted it had failed in its duty of care to passengers and staff in the construction, inspection and maintainance of drainage on the line

READ MORE: Stonehaven tragedy was caused by Network Rail and Carillion failures

This led to gravel on the track, which caused the train to derail and strike the safety barrier of a bridge. 

As well as the three deaths, six people were injured in the crash. 

In Aberdeen High Court, Network Rail admitted it had failed to ensure its contractor, the now-defunct Carillion, had built the drain properly between May 1, 2011 and December 31, 2012.

Rail bosses also conceded they had failed to train staff properly to respond to adverse weather, meaning that the driver of the train was not told it was unsafe to drive at 75mph in the conditions on the day of the crash. 

Court documents outline how there was a forecast of “extreme rainfall” and reports of severe weather, landslips and flooding in Aberdeenshire and the surrounding area on the day of the crash.

The firm had failed to impose an emergency speed restriction "in absence of current information about the integrity of the railway line and drainage assets between Montrose and Stonehaven", the charge stated.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The Carmont derailment and the tragic loss of Christopher Stuchbury, Donald Dinnie and Brett McCullough was a terrible day for our railway and our thoughts remain with their families and all those affected by the accident.

“While we cannot comment on the ongoing legal process, it is clear that there were fundamental lessons to be learnt by Network Rail.

"Since August 2020, we have been working hard to make our railway safer for our passengers and colleagues.”