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Scotland’s transport secretary Michael Matheson has suggested climate change played a part in the Aberdeenshire train crash, pointing to the “very intense rainfall” in the area.
Officials have pledged to find out what caused a train to derail on Wednesday, killing three people and injuring six others.
The 6.38am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street service crashed near Stonehaven amid heavy rain and flooding.
Among the dead were the train’s driver, named locally as Brett McCullough, as well as the conductor and a passenger.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Thursday morning, Matheson said it was “reasonable to suggest weather has been a factor” in the crash given the “very intense rainfall” during the night.
“We are expiring an ever increasing number of very localised, intense, weather events that are having an impact on the rail network and the transport network overall,” he said.
Train driver Brett McCullough and conductor Donald Dinnie died in the derailment near Stonehaven, ScotRail’s managing director has confirmed.
The third person who died is believed to have been a passenger on the train.
Matheson will visit the area today, along with UK transport secretary Grant Shapps, and meet members of the emergency services.
Matheson added in a separate BBC interview this morning: “My heart goes out to all those who have been affected by this, particularly to the families and friends of those who were killed in this incident yesterday.
“My thoughts are very much with them and I also hope those injured in the course of this incident are able to make a speedy recovery.”
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines added: “Our climate is changing and it is increasingly challenging the performance and reliability of the railway, but incidents like yesterday’s devastating accident are incredibly rare, and our railway remains the safest major railway in Europe.
“Our network was designed for a temperate climate, and it’s challenged when we get extremes such as storms and floods.”
Ahead of the visit, Shapps said: “I express my deepest condolences to the friends and families of those affected in the tragic incident near Stonehaven.
“My department is in close contact with all relevant parties, including our counterparts in the Scottish Government, to provide any support that is required.
“I want to pay tribute to the emergency services and rail workers, who have responded so quickly in these distressing circumstances.
“The safety of passengers and staff is and has always been our upmost priority and we will ensure that lessons are learned from this tragic incident once the Rail Accident Investigation Branch has carried out its investigation.”