THE investigation into the Northwich Station collapse by a rail watchdog is approaching a conclusion - almost three years on.

On May 18, 2021, a wall and part of the roof at the station fell onto a platform and the track. No-one was injured, but several passengers were left shaken by the incident.

The Office of Road and Rail (ORR) launched an investigation into the collapse and, in its latest annual health and safety report, confirmed the growth of vegetation had been the cause.

Following the structural failure at the station, the ticket office has now been rebuilt, but it is yet to be fitted out and reopened.

Since the incident, Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury has been critical of the length of time for the investigation and repairs to take place, as well as labelling the situation a 'missed opportunity' to make the station more accessible.

Mr Amesbury, who understands the ORR is expected to conclude its investigation into the collapse within the next month, said: “Britain’s railway is the oldest in the world, dating back almost 200 years.

Northwich Guardian: Vegetation growing at Northwich Station in November 2020Vegetation growing at Northwich Station in November 2020 (Image: Google)

"Surely, we must have worked out how to control vegetation before now. Someone could have been killed because of this neglect.

"I await the outcome of the ORR inquiry with interest, hopefully it will come sooner rather than later given it’s now almost three years on."

In the ORR annual safety report, it was revealed effective vegetation control was found to be lacking across the network.

Under a heading of ‘Management of vegetation on buildings and structures’, the report states: “Following the failure of several structures, such as a gable wall at Northwich Station in May 2021, we carried out inspections in some regions to assess the effectiveness of vegetation management at structures and buildings.

“We found that, across the three regions inspected, Vegetation Management Plans (VMPs), a crucial first step in effective vegetation control, were either absent or incomplete.

Northwich Guardian: Mike Amesbury outside Northwich Station after the collapseMike Amesbury outside Northwich Station after the collapse (Image: Supplied)

“These plans are a requirement of Network Rail’s own standard, and this matter needs to be rectified as a first step to improving vegetation management.”

The ORR report also noted that, anecdotally, engineers ‘do not perceive vegetation as a significant risk’.

But the collapse of the locally Listed Victorian station has prompted changes.

The report continued: “More positively, we observed robust measures to identify and manage vegetation problems on gable walls at operational property, following nationally mandated, targeted inspections in response to the Northwich Station wall collapse.”