Posted: 30/10/2011 11:49:38 by Nigel Nixon

A MAINTENANCE worker signed documents to say he had inspected railway points near Grayrigg when he hadn’t, an inquest has heard.

Geoffrey Ruddick, a Network Rail track chargeman, told the hearing into the death of 84-year-old Margaret Masson that he completed forms stating he had conducted safety tests on four railway points on the West Coast Main Line on December 17, 2006.

In fact, he was 50 miles away working in Gretna.

He told the jury sitting at Kendal County Hall that he ticked paperwork to say checks had been done before submitting the documents on December 18.

Mr Ruddick said he was under ‘constant pressure’ from supervisors to meet deadlines and sent off the paperwork because he was due to take a break from work and did not know when the checks would be done.

“You’re answering to different supervisors at times,” he told the inquest.

“You’re put under pressure to keep to different timescales.”

Nicholas Hilliard QC, barrister for the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), said the tests that were not carried out were ‘absolutely vital’ and designed to prevent trains from derailing.

“It was a test concerned with reducing the risk of a derailment?” asked Mr Hilliard, to which Mr Ruddick replied: “Yes, that’s true.”

Mr Ruddick added: “I said I had carried out tests at Lambrigg (near Grayrigg) when I hadn’t.”

Two months later, on February 23, 2007, Mrs Masson was killed after a Virgin Pendolino passed over faulty points at 95mph north of Kendal.

However, track engineers told the inquest that subsequent checks which did take place - on January 9 and January 31 - showed the points were in ‘perfect working order’.

Mr Hilliard said: “It could have been quite unsafe.

“You were signing the form to say it was fine?”

Mr Ruddick replied: “That’s correct.”

He added that he knew it was ‘wrong’ and told the jury that it was the first time he had ever completed paperwork in such a way.

Meanwhile, another Network Rail employee told how he raised concerns with his bosses over doing important safety checks in the dark.

The inquest learnt that technician Stephen Percival said to his superiors: “I have raised queries on numerous occasions doing this work on nightshift because it’s easier to do in daylight and I would prefer to carry out safety-critical checks in normal daylight than artificial light.”

But he was told condition checks could only take place at night when train traffic was quiet.

The inquest into the events leading up to the death of Mrs Masson continues next week when senior Network Rail managers are expected to give evidence.

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Posted: 22/10/2011 13:57:00 by Nigel Nixon

STUDENTS from around the globe are making Ambleside their home after enrolling on the University of Cumbria’s first ever international course.

Outdoor enthusiasts from countries including China, Australia and Germany are among the 17 students spending the Autumn term in the Lake District as part of their masters in Transcultural European Outdoor Studies.

The qualification is the first of its kind and is being run by the university, Germany’s University of Marburg and Norway’s School of Sport Sciences.

Course leader Dr. Christopher Loynes said: “Within this time frame, our ambition is to make the course a coveted choice for people interested in pursuing a career in the outdoor field. We also aim to develop tight links with non-European universities and make the course truly global. Eventually, we plan to make the course financially self-sustaining through the charging of student fees.”

The course will be funded by the European Commission for the next five years and once students have left Ambleside in the New Year they will spend their next two terms at the other institutions.

While some of the students area already experienced in outdoor studies, for many this is a new area of knowledge and expertise.

Katerina Pata from Greece, who previously studied to be a pre-school teacher, said:“I couldn’t find a relevant masters course in Greece and applied for courses elsewhere in Europe. I liked this course because I get a chance to go to three different countries and learn various approaches to the subject. My goal is to make the concept of outdoor learning more prominent in my country and create my own outdoor kindergarten.”

However, others come to the course with a lot of experience like Wilson Wai Yin Cheung who is a former president of the mountaineering association of Hong Kong.

The students, who come from 15 countries, will be living in university accommodation in Ambleside and learning the theoretical knowledge and practical qualifications necessary to be successful outdoor industry professionals.

During their first semester they will undertake two week-long hiking expeditions, one in the Scottish Highlands and one in the Lake District and a week-long canoeing trip.

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Posted: 17/10/2011 12:25:03 by Nigel Nixon

Kendal Calling has been crowned the UK’s Best Small Festival for a second consecutive year.

The award comes from Live UK, a magazine dedicated to the country’s live music industry and follows the festival’s sixth year of bigger crowds.

Organisers of Kendal Calling had to beat off competition from Wakestock, in North Wales, and London's Kick Out The Jams to secure the title.

Around 8,000 people flocked to the Lowther estate, near Penrith, this year to see acts such as ‘80s rock legend Blondie, Dubstep heroes Chase & Status plus Echo and the Bunnymen.

Festival co-founder and director Ben Robinson said: “It’s been an amazing year, the festival has gone from strength to strength and we’re extremely proud.

"The festival is testament to those who come and year on year it continues to attract a people who just want to have a good time."

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Posted: 15/10/2011 08:19:35 by Nigel Nixon

FOLLOWING the sucess of the Tour of Britain stage in Kendal in September, the South Lakes will host the first stage of the Rapha SuperCross Series this weekend.

The Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole, Windermere, will open its gates for the opening round on Saturday with a mix of pro and amateur riders expected to get involved in the cyclo-cross event.

The course has been designed by Scott UK team captain Nick Craig, who is looking forward to a superb weekend. He said: “Racing up the drive and around the garden at the splendid Brockhole will feel amazing.

“It’s a classic course with a few surprises, more akin to the early days of cyclo-cross but on the edge of Windermere.”

Following on from the Windermere event, riders will continue on to Huddersfield on Sunday and Alexandra Palace on October 23 as they bid to win a share of the £6,000 prize money.

Top teams in cyclo-cross, including Hope Factory Racing, Endura, Hargroves Cycles-Specialised Trant Next and local team will compete as well as a talented group of under 23 riders.

An additional fun circuit for younger kids will be on offer while the elite men’s race will start from 2.30pm.

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Posted: 11/10/2011 11:11:08 by Nigel Nixon

A MAN fell 30 metres while walking with his young son at Scafell Pike on Saturday - triggering a seven-hour rescue.

Two mountain rescue teams were involved in the difficult operation of evacuating the walker - who suffered head injuries - from broken, steep ground.

Thirteen members of Wasdale Mountain Rescue and 12 volunteers with Duddon and Furness Mountain Rescue were alerted by a nearby couple who heard the fall.

After reaching the summit, the man, in his early thirties, took a slight deviation off route on his way down in poor visibility, which led to Dropping Crag.

The walker, on a camping trip from Cambridgeshire with his son and a friend, fell and sustained head injuries and cuts.

The couple who heard the accident administered first aid and called for help.

A team doctor treated the man’s head injury and the walkers were warmed up in a bivy tent.

Rescuers said all three, particularly the young boy, were at risk of hypothermia because of the cold, wet weather.

The boy’s father was put into a specialist vacuum mattress to protect his neck and spine and stretchered off the mountain.

At 978 metres (3,209 ft), Scafell is England's highest mountain.

Rescuers said the carry down was ‘extremely arduous’ because of the terrain.

The man was eventually transferred to a road ambulance at Bracken Close and taken to Whitehaven Hospital for further treatment.

The incident came to an end at around 9.45pm.

A spokesman for Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team said without the support of the Duddon team, the rescue would have taken much longer.

While that incident was ongoing, both teams were called to help a young fell runner who had suffered a puncture wound to his ankle during the Wasdale Show fell race at Kirkfell.

Twelve members administered first aid and carried the runner down on a stretcher to a road ambulance at Wasdale Head.

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