Rail Accident Investigation Branch's (RAIB) - accident reports

Risks from modifying Freight containers and incorrect 'loading' of freight containers

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch's (RAIB) Rail accident reports 17/2012 and 02/2013, asks the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to raise awareness, amongst users of freight containers of the findings of these investigations.

RAIB publication 17/2012

The RAIB publication 17/2012, reported on a container train incident near Althorpe Park, Northamptonshire, where a partially detached metal panel from a container train struck the cab of a passing track maintenance vehicle, smashing the side window. A similar panel was found trackside, one mile further on. No-one was injured in this incident.

The panels were from two modified freight containers, which now housed power generation equipment and were being exported overseas. The panels covered two ventilation apertures on the container sides. They were fitted to prevent water ingress during the sea journey.

The cause of the accident was the fixings securing the panel had become loose during rail transit.

Since the incident, the company now fits the panels internally within the modified container.


The recommendation asks the Health and Safety Executive to draw the attention of manufacturers and users of modified freight containers, to the need for a competent assessment of the adequacy of bolted joints used to secure exterior attachments, when designing, modifying or repairing containers.

RAIB publication 02/2013

The RAIB publication 02/2013, reported on a wagon on a container train that derailed, and then re-railed, when crossing a section of track connecting two lines (a crossover) at Reading West Junction. No-one was injured.

RAIB concluded that pallets in the container mounted on the wagon had moved during the road journey to the freight terminal. As a result, the uneven loading within the wagon had led to the incident.

The company that had packed the container had no processes at the time to ensure the palletised load could not move in transit. This was critical as this container was only partially filled, allowing space for the heavy pallets to shift, which lead to an unbalanced load.


The recommendation asks HSE to draw attention to those loading (known as 'stuffing' in the industry) containers, using sufficient 'dunnage' or solid packing, to prevent pallets or materials moving, especially when pallets support heavy individual items.

Shippers and freight forwarders should be aware of specific guidance, especially 'Guidelines for packing of cargo transport units' published by the International Maritime Organisation, or equivalent documents.

Staff and operatives should also receive training in the correct loading techniques, as failure to prevent load shift, especially in transit or during handling, may result in incidents with serious consequences.

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Updated 2021-11-08