The moving spoil heap at a Doncaster pit which destroyed rail tracks this week has raised fears of an ‘Aberfan-type’ disaster, community leaders say.
Town councillors at Stainforth say they have been fighting for years to have the tip at Hafield Colliery reduced in size but have been ‘fobbed off’. On Monday, a huge landslip caused the ground under the Doncaster to Thorne railway line to erupt and left the tracks twisted and buckled like a scene from a disaster movie.
It will be more than two months before the track can be replaced and brought back into use because the site is unsafe to work on, says Network Rail.
But the dramatic images of the landslip have also caused serious alarm at Stainforth Town Council. Town Mayor Arlene Abbott, a councillor for eight years, said they had been fighting to get the ‘black hills’ - as they are known locally - reduced in size.
“The present owners promised they would do something but nothing’s come of it,” she said. “We want to work together to fight to get something done and we have been fobbed off. It makes you worried about what could happen next.”
Coun Abbott pointed out the perimeter of a school on Kirton Lane, Stainforth, is only about 300 yards from the edge of the northern side of the spoil heap, and the nearest house is 200 yards away.
“People have never seen it like this before,” she said. “It is still moving and my concern is the other side will start moving.”
Hatfield Colliery operators Hargreaves Coal Services say the tip will be ‘closely monitored’ before remedial work starts.
A spokesman said: “Our civil engineers have recommended the tip is allowed to settle naturally. During this time the tip will be closely monitored.
“The Health and Safety Executive, with their civil engineers, attended the site on Wednesday and have agreed this is a sensible and prudent course of action.
“Our engineers have devised a remedial plan that will start once all parties are satisfied the tip is in equilibrium. At this stage we are unable to say when that will be, but we will issue a further update once we know more.”
There is no prospect of train services between Doncaster and Goole and Scunthorpe resuming for at least two months.
Nick Donovan, managing director of First Trans Pennine Express, said: “The ground remains extremely unstable and land movement continues. The site needs to be made safe before Network Rail can fully investigate the damage caused.
“The damage is however very significant and it is now highly unlikely we will be able to operate a train service for at least the next eight weeks between Doncaster and Scunthorpe.
“We are advising customers to check their journey at www.nationalrail.co.uk before they travel.”