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The report determined that the train driver responsible for a crash that injured 14 individuals did not activate the brakes in a timely manner before reaching a red signal.
According to the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), Network Rail failed to properly handle the dangers posed by leaves on the tracks, which led to a crash between two passenger trains in Salisbury, Wiltshire in 2021.
The Railway Accident Investigation Branch stated that one of the trains in the accident was very close to a potentially much more severe collision with a train going in the opposite direction. However, this was avoided by less than a minute.
On October 31, a collision between a South Western Railway and Great Western Railway passenger train at Salisbury Tunnel Junction resulted in one railway staff member and 13 passengers being hospitalized.
Due to the accident, the railway line between Salisbury and Andover was shut down for 16 days. During this time, approximately 900 meters of fresh track were laid and nearly 1,500 sleepers were put in place.
The RAIB’s report, released on Tuesday, stated that the train driver failed to apply the brakes early enough while approaching the signal at the junction, resulting in running past it.
Shortly after the crash, the RAIB stated that they believed the South Western Railway train passed a red signal at the junction because the wheels lost traction on the rails, likely due to poor adhesion.
The report determined that the cause of the wheels slipping was due to leaves on the track and the wet weather conditions on the day of the accident.
The report also stated that Network Rail’s Wessex route did not adequately address the issue of leaves on the tracks, using neither proactive nor reactive methods.
According to the report, South Western Railway may not be adequately training their drivers to evaluate and report low adhesion conditions, which could be a contributing factor.
The Railway Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has issued 10 suggestions, with seven specifically aimed at Network Rail.
Some of the key areas included staff training and expertise in vegetation management and timely delivery during different seasons.
Andrew Hall, the main investigator of railway accidents at RAIB, stated: “This was an extremely severe incident and marks the first instance in which RAIB has examined the crash of two passenger trains moving at high speeds since our establishment in 2005.”
The saying “leaves on the line” may elicit a smirk. However, the dangers of leaves getting crushed onto the rails by the weight of passing trains, causing a slippery surface, are significant and have been recognized for a long time.
Like most accidents, this one was caused by a convergence of various circumstances, both leading up to and on the day of the incident.
Therefore, the measures implemented to prevent such an incident were not successful.