The decision to take no further action on the Llangennech rail wagon derailment, which saw hundreds of thousands of of litres of fuel spilled and large fires burning for days, has been described as "disappointing."

A Natural Resources Wales (NRW) investigation into the incident says there's not enough evidence for a successful conviction and it would be a "reckless use of public monies to pursue a prosecution."

The freight train, which was pulling 25 wagons from Milford Haven to Theale, near Reading, derailed on 26 August 2020 while travelling through the village of Llangennech, spilling 350,000 litres of diesel.

It caused a fire which could be seen from miles around, which took firefighters almost two days to extinguish.

Around 300 residents were evacuated from their homes by emergency services the night of the incident, but the local community quickly rallied around, providing emergency shelter and food for those uprooted from their homes.

Although, no one was injured in the incident, the incident had a detrimental effect on an internationally protected site and impacted local businesses and tourism.

Cockle and shell fisheries in the area were closed for eight weeks after the spill, so that the shellfish could be tested for contamination, while the section of railway line was closed for seven months.

The investigation probed a number of different companies with a view to prosecution, but it concluded that there was no realistic prospect of conviction against any company or individual and no charges will be brought.

South Wales Guardian: The aftermath of the train derailment at LlangennechThe aftermath of the train derailment at Llangennech (Image: Rail Accident Investigation Bureau)

Martyn Evans, Head of South West Operations, NRW, said: "While there is strong evidence identifying the likely cause of the derailment and the impact that had on the environment, it has not been possible to determine beyond reasonable doubt who was ultimately responsible for the derailment of the train wagon.

"We have exhausted every lead as part of the investigation, however, there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against a specific individual or company. To pursue a court case knowing there was no realistic prospect of a successful prosecution would be a reckless use of public funds.

He added: "This has been a difficult and disappointing decision for NRW to make. The impact of this incident will be felt in the environment for years to come.

"I wish to thank everyone who contributed to the enormous incident response, and recovery operation. All worked tirelessly to mitigate the long-term impact of this incident on the environment."


The Welsh government said it joined the NRW in being disappointed there would be no criminal prosecution.

A spokesperson said: "However, the extensive recovery operation that took place following the incident helped to avoid further environmental damage and limit long-term damage. As would be expected those involved in the incident covered the costs of the recovery operation ensuring the polluter paid for the damage they had caused.

"A number of investigations have now taken place into the incident and it is vital that lessons are learned from these to avoid anything like this happening again."

The government added that it had agreed to guarantee loans up to the value of £200k to prevent "financial hardship" for the cockle gatherers affected, and that they'd "consider the implications" of NRW's decision.

Dame Nia Griffith MP for Llanelli, said: “We are deeply disappointed at this news that no-one will be held directly accountable for the crash. It has caused significant damage to the natural environment around the Loughor Estuary and created major difficulties for the cockling industry there, from which they are still struggling to recover.

"It was only through luck that nothing even more serious happened that night, yet, here we are over two years later and no-one will be taking responsibility for such a worrying incident. This is particularly concerning as similar issues with rolling stock maintenance were reported following an incident in 2017.  

"How can we now be sure that lessons are properly learned from this if companies are allowed to just carry on as normal without any consequences?”.

Lee Waters MS, Senedd Member for Llanelli, concluded: “The crash was a real wake up call and its effects are still being felt locally even after all this time. The Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB) issued a comprehensive report into the incident with a host of recommendations to be implemented.

"It is vital that all the lessons from this are learned quickly so that similar incidents are not allowed to happen again in future. All the recommendations need to be implemented promptly and fully to ensure that we never see something like again.”


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