Network Rail has launched a new safety task force, backed with a £70m fund, to target track-worker safety following the deaths of two men on the line in Port Talbot.

The task force will accelerate its current ‘Near Miss Reduction Programme’ and will pull together multiple programmes that have been working over the past eight months.

Network Rails says the task force will look into designing and developing new protection and warning systems using digital technology to warn workers of approaching trains.

Network Rail’s group safety, technical and engineering director Martin Frobisher said: “The tragic deaths in Wales last week are a stark reminder to us all that more needs to be done. We will rise to that challenge as losing more of our railway family is not something we can tolerate.”

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Michael Lewis and Gareth Delbridge were killed when a train hit them in Port Talbot as they worked on the line.

Network Rail also intends to improve the planning of track-side work, giving clarity of who’s in charge and ensuring good quality briefings are undertaken before work starts

A fatigue improvement programme will it says better manage working time, travelling time and the impact of personal lifestyle on alertness and fitness for work.

It will also introduce better and more thorough work activity risk assessments so that risks and safety mitigations are better thought through and planned.

The task force will be a partnership with all the key players in the industry - who are able to help bring about improvements - invited to join the team including the Office of Rail and Road, trades unions and contractors.

The scene on a section of track near Port Talbot after two railway workers died after being struck by a train. Credit: PA Images

We will make it safer to work on or near the railway than it is today.

Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s group safety, technical and engineering director

I don’t want to see another track-worker death, which is why we are today creating a new team backed by a hefty budget to drive change and make working on the railway safer for our people. I can’t think of a more important task.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the railway’s safety regulator, has also signalled concern in this area by issuing the company with two improvement notices seeking get the company to do more to improve track-worker safety.