WORK to recover the carriages that derailed in a fatal incident almost one month ago is to begin this week.

Driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie and passenger Christopher Stuchbury died when the ScotRail service derailed near Stonehaven on August 12.

It struck a landslip the morning after torrential rains and an investigation is under way by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).

Network Rail will this week begin its work to reopen the railway.

Specialist engineers will use a 600-tonne crawler crane to carefully lift the derailed carriages from the railway in a process set to take several days.

A new 900-metre road and temporary bridges have been created over the surrounding farmland to bring the specialist lifting equipment to the site.

The "delicate" operation has been planned alongside the police, accident investigators and other partner agencies.

Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland’s Railway, said: “August 12 was a devastating day with the loss of Brett, Donald and Christopher in this tragic accident.

“While we will now begin the process of recovering the carriages and repairing the railway, we do so with a heavy heart.

“We will continue to work closely with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch throughout this recovery process so we can learn from this terrible event and help prevent similar accidents.”

Once the carriages have been removed from the site, engineers will assess the extent of repairs required to the damaged tracks and bridge.

That work will allow rail bosses to work out how long it will take to reopen the line to passengers — something expected to take several weeks.

Shuttle services and replacement buses will remain in place.

Hundreds of sites with trackside slopes similar to Stonehaven were inspected after the incident. Climatology expert Dame Julia Slingo, former chief scientist at the Met Office, is to lead a weather action taskforce to establish the risk of rainfall to Network Rail infrastructure.

Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, visited the site earlier today. He said: “My thoughts continue to remain with the family and friends of those affected by this tragic incident.

“I’m here today to understand the scale of the work being undertaken and to show my, and the Scottish Government’s, continued support for those involved in the investigation, recovery and service restoration. 

“The RAIB investigation will ensure that any safety lessons are learned quickly and I will be interested to hear what comes of this and how Network Rail can take these forward in the future. An investigation of this type is so comprehensive and it will now take time to restore the site of the incident so rail services can be reintroduced as soon as possible.

“As we move towards the recovery phase and given the scale of this enormous challenge I would like to thank all those involved for their efforts undertaken at the site.”