Passenger describes 'scary' Salisbury train crash

Passenger describes 'scary' Salisbury train crash

‘There was a huge whoosh of fire and sparks’: Passenger injured in Salisbury train crash describes ‘extremely scary’ moment two locomotives collided in tunnel following ‘major signal failure’

  • Thirteen people were injured on Sunday when a speeding train smashed into a second one that had derailed 
  • Around 100 passengers were on board the two trains, which were approaching Salisbury at about 6.45pm
  • 1708 Great Western service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads stopped at tunnel entrance
  • Seven minutes later the 1720 South Western Railway service from London Waterloo to Honiton collided with it
  • No one was killed but a train driver was left with ‘life-changing injuries’, the British Transport Police said
  • Investigators are now probing whether a signal failure caused the catastrophic collision at the weekend
  • Were you on either of the trains involved? Email [email protected] or [email protected] 

Salisbury train crash: What we know so far

TRAIN 1 STOPS IN TUNNEL AT 18.38pm

The 17.08pm Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads run by Great Western Railway comes to a halt as it enters the Fisherton Tunnel in Salisbury at around 18.38pm on Sunday.

Dozens of people are trapped inside for seven minutes before the second crash.

Passengers described feeling a ‘jolt’ as the train stopped in the tunnel and early reports based on survivors said the train struck something like a rock or a branch and derailed.

But British Transport Police has said it is yet to find evidence of this amid suggestions it was only derailed when struck seven minutes later.

TRAIN 2 HITS TRAIN 1 AT 18.45pm 

The 17.20pm London Waterloo to Honiton in Devon run by South West Rail is due at Salisbury Station at 18.47pm.

At 18.45pm it hits the sider back and of GWR service that had derailed at speed, forcing it off the track as well.

Investigators are looking into why the signalling in the area failed to stop it after the first train derailed.    

A passenger who was injured in the Salisbury train crash has described the ‘extremely scary’ moment a ‘huge whoosh of fire’ exploded behind him during the horror smash.

Cameron Thrower was one of 13 people hurt when two passenger trains crashed in the Fisherton tunnel near Salisbury at 6.45pm on Sunday.

Passengers on a Great Western Railways service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads were thrown around their pitch-black carriages after their train derailed when it ‘jolted’ to a halt in the tunnel.

Around 50 people were stranded on the derailed train for seven minutes before a South Western Railway service from London to Honiton with around 50 more people on board then ploughed into the stationary train at around 6.45pm.  

Miraculously, no one was killed. However, one of the train drivers was left with ‘life-changing injuries’, the British Transport Police said. Investigators are probing whether a signal failure caused the catastrophic collision. 

Speaking to BBC Breakfast from his home in Dorset, Mr Thrower described how he was ‘waiting to pull into Salisbury’ when he was suddenly ‘thrown’ onto the floor after the locomotives crashed, and called the incident ‘extremely scary’.

‘The next thing I know there’s just an almighty noise, I’m being thrown about the joiner carriage,’ he said. ‘Worst of all, I turn around behind me and there’s this huge whoosh of fire and sparks on the door outside. And the next thing I know I’m just in the dark on the floor wondering what’s happened and realising that everything is definitely not quite as it should be and it was extremely scary in that moment.’

He added that there was a spirit of ‘coming together’ in the crash, telling host Dan Walker: ‘Even in this horrible moment, the first thing everyone was doing was making sure their fellow man was OK and making sure that everyone else was fine, that no one was injured, and if they were that they were getting the help we could provide them in that moment.’  

It is understood the SWR train should have stopped, but instead ploughed into the other train. Possibilities being examined include a red signal malfunction, human error, brake failure or the wet weather causing the train to skid. There is a 20mph speed limit at that section of the line.

DCI Paul Langley, from British Transport Police, said: ‘This will no doubt have been an incredibly frightening experience for all those involved and our thoughts are with them and their families. Specialist officers and detectives remain on scene in Salisbury and we are working closely alongside the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) and the Office of Rail and Road to establish exactly how these two trains came to collide.’

Initial reports suggested fallen masonry or earth could have triggered one train to stop in the tunnel, with the second crashing into it, but Mr Langley said: ‘At this early stage there has been nothing to suggest the train struck an object or that there was any significant delay between the trains colliding and then one derailing.’

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister’s thoughts remain with those who were affected by the incident.’

Travellers at Salisbury station yesterday were met with arrivals and departures screens showing that almost all trains were cancelled. A joint Network Rail, GWR and SWR statement last night said passengers should expect chaos for the next few days.  

An RAIB spokesman said: ‘We have a team of five inspectors on site as well as support staff who have already begun examining the train, tracks, infrastructure, as well as gathering electronic evidence.’

Investigators at the scene of a crash involving two trains near the Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury in Wiltshire

Emergency services personnel gather near the site where two trains collided near Salisbury

Cameron Thrower was one of 13 people hurt when two passenger trains crashed in the Fisherton tunnel near Salisbury at 6.45pm on Sunday

Passengers on a Great Western Railways service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads were thrown around their pitch-black carriages after their train ‘jolted’ to a halt in the tunnel, sending it off the rails as it entered the 430-yard underpass. Around 50 people were stranded on the derailed train for seven minutes before a South Western Railway service from London to Honiton with around 50 more people on board then ploughed into the stationary train at around 6.45pm

The scene this morning as two trains collided in Fisherton Tunnel as more than a dozen people were sent to hospital but none were critically injured

In the aftermath of the crash, the South West Railway train (left) is seen with its cab mangled after hitting the back of the stationary GWR service, which had previously partially derailed in a tunnel close to Salisbury station 

The SWR service, being referred to as ‘Train 2’, appears to be the most badly damaged of the two trains with carriages leaning at 45 degrees

People using one of the country’s main railway route to the south-west and south coast will face at least four days of chaos. 

108 train services via Salisbury were cancelled today after last night’s derailment and crash. 

Disruption following a train crash in Salisbury which left several people injured will continue for several days.

National Rail Enquiries said most of the lines serving the Wiltshire city are blocked and ‘will remain closed until at least the end of the day on Thursday’.

This is affecting Great Western Railway (GWR) services on the route linking Cardiff and Bristol with Portsmouth and Brighton.

Several South Western Railway (SWR) routes are also affected, such as London Waterloo-Exeter, Bristol-Salisbury and Southampton-Salisbury.

Passengers are urged not to travel on the affected parts of the network.

Passengers on the first train described feeling a ‘jolt’ and ‘bump’ before the train stopped and early reports in the aftermath of the incident said that the first train was derailed after striking debris on the track after heavy rain and strong winds swept across the country yesterday. One woman on the train said a rumour amongst passengers was that the first train could have been thrown from the track after hitting part of a fallen tree or a piece of stone from the tunnel.

A three-week-old baby was among those rescued. Corinna Anderson, 51, from Derby, who was on the SWR train, told The Times: ‘As I climbed off my train, I saw a fireman cradling the baby in his arms.’ 

Callum Stedman, 16, said passengers feared it was a terror attack and thought they would die as smoked filled the carriages of the train he was in. He told The Sun: ‘We felt a jolt and everything went black. We all landed on each other and the train was at 45 degrees on its side. Lights started coming on from people’s phones and we started looking around – you see people with broken noses and black eyes and blood dripping.

‘It was just really scary. The smoke was the worst part because you thought it was going to catch fire and you would die.’

He added: ‘Outside the door there was a big fireball. Everyone started panicking. There were a lot of people crying and some people were kicking in the windows.’ 

Lucy Gregory told the BBC: ‘We were just pulling into Salisbury station and the train felt a bit juddery. I’d just stood up and put my coat on and my phone in my pocket when there was this massive impact and I fell across the table. The table came off the wall and I ended up underneath another table. They smashed the windows and we got out of the window. It was really scary.’

But BTP said that they have not yet found evidence of this, raising serious questions about how and why the GWR train was stationary at the time of the crash.

A senior railway engineer also told MailOnline that a ‘major flaw’ with signals meant they failed to automatically turn red and allowed the second high-speed inter-city SWR service to smash into the derailed train leaving at least 17 people injured. 

The driver of one of the trains, containing many teenagers and families returning home after half term, was trapped in his cab while others on board broke noses and feet as well as suffering severe cuts and bruises. But remarkably no one was killed.

One teenager on the second train travelling from London to Devon grabbed his phone and filmed inside one carriage that was tipping over and said: ‘F*** me. We are literally on our side’ before zooming in on an injured man and saying: ‘That guy’s face is mashed’. 

Another survivor declared: ‘It was really scary, lots of people started taking videos saying ‘mum and dad, I love you’, scared they were going to die’.   

Those on board the trains described a huge bang like a ‘bomb going off’ when the collision happened, followed by flying glass, sparks from the grinding metal and even tables flying across the carriages.  Firefighters and paramedics rescued around 120 people, including a three-week-old baby.  

Abigail Taylor was on the first train and said that it was in the tunnel for around five minutes before it was struck by the second train.

She added: ‘We stopped in the tunnel and then the train just jolted several times and it was clear something wasn’t right, it was almost like turbulence on a plane but worse.  People were saying there was a tree that had fallen, which was why we had derailed, and something happened to the signals, which was why we got hit by another train. But I don’t know if that was accurate or not. It was a miracle no one was killed’. 

Downing Street said the Prime Minister’s thoughts were with those injured in the Salisbury train crash but the Government was investing to ensure the railway network remained ‘one of the safest in the world’.

A No 10 spokesman said: ‘The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) have been deployed to the site and are conducting forensic investigations, obviously the Prime Minister’s thoughts remain with those who were affected by the incident.

‘It would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time while the RAIB are working to investigate what happened.’

The spokesman added: ‘I think it’s important that we let the RAIB investigate this thoroughly, but more generally in terms of safety standards on the network it’s obviously a top priority for this Government, which is why we have allocated £40 billion worth of spending to ensure that the railways continue to be one of the safest in the world.’

Royal Navy sailor Morgan Harris, who was travelling from London Waterloo back to his base in Yeovil, said he was thrown from his seat due to the impact of the huge crash. The 20-year-old Able Seaman said: ‘It was all going along normally then, all of a sudden, there was this massive bang and all of the lights went out. There was sparks and flames from where we had come off the track, and there was a load of ash coming from outside. Our train was on its side… I was thrown out of my seat and banged against the table.’

‘It sounded like a bomb going off’ 

Witnesses described hearing a massive bang ‘like a bomb going off’ as two trains collided in the tunnel near Salisbury last night.

A local resident living near the tunnels said she was out with her children celebrating hallowe’en when they heard the noise of the train crash which she liked to thunder or a bomb going off..

Tamar Vellacott told reporters that she was out with her children and mother celebrating hallowe’en at the time of the crash.

‘It was a noise we’ve never heard before, my young ones started panicking thinking it was a bomb and we said maybe a lorry had crashed on the London Road and not to panic,’ said the 25-year-old.

‘There was no screeching like brakes, just a long rumbling sound like thunder. It did spook us though, so we decided to get in our car and drive home. Three police cars passed us at speed.’ 

Peter Golden, 52, from Laverstock, Wiltshire, said the collision ‘sounded like something big collapsing – the sound of things falling into each other’.

‘With the windy day we’ve had I first thought it was a big gust of wind that has knocked something heavy over.

‘It wasn’t till the helicopter arrived on station over the tunnel that I realised what I had heard.

‘The first helicopter arrived on station and started hovering about 30 to 40 mins after the collision. 

‘There were lots of sirens and emergency vehicles on London Road.

‘Emergency vehicles were coming from the west and east – presumably Andover – as well as Salisbury.’ 

Passenger Dimitri Popa, from Romania, was travelling on the train from London to Sherborne when the terrifying crash occurred.

The 17 year old said: ‘It all happened so fast… I was just sitting in the first carriage and there was a huge crash. Then I saw the flames and got pretty scared, and all the lights went out. The carriage was 45 degrees to the right. We didn’t know where we were or anything… we were all just so shocked.’ 

A young woman living in one of the houses closest to Fisherton Tunnel, where the crash occurred and the two trains remain, has told of her horror as she watched girls as young as 15 suffered from broken bones. The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘There were two girls I saw sitting just across the bridge. I saw them from one of the bedroom windows in my house. 

‘They were wrapped in silver blankets and everything. They were sat on the bank across from our house and one of the girls looked like she had broken her foot. ‘The other girl was breathing into a bag because she was so terrified and shocked. 

‘They were only teenagers… I would guess they were around 15 years old. There were a lot of young people on the train. ‘We also saw people bringing big equipment to cut open the metal of the train, because there were so many people trapped in there.’ 

Speaking to MailOnline on condition of anonymity, a senior Network Rail engineer claimed that when the GWR train collided with an object and derailed, there should be an ‘automatic obstruction warning’ to stop any train entering that same mile-long stretch. 

‘There has been a major flaw within the signalling system within Network Rail. The system says that the line is not safe for the passage of another train because there is an obstruction on the line,’ they said, adding: ‘According to my system, the signalling system was aware seven minutes before impact. It should’ve automatically stopped the train. It should’ve automatically set all signals to red. If the driver didn’t see the signal, the system should’ve made the train stop.’ 

The whistleblower added: ‘I’ve realised for a number of years there has been numerous failures within [Network Rail]’ and said they had feared an incident like this would happen ‘for the past two years’.

17 people were injured including one of the drivers, who was cut free having suffered a suspected broken ankle. A ‘small number’ of people were taken to hospital, while the ‘walking wounded’ were cared for at a nearby church where local people offered support in the form of blankets, food, drinks and first aid.

Officials declared it a ‘critical’ incident as observers claimed it was a miracle nobody was killed.

A major rail accident investigation is underway and experts will look at why signals that should have turned red to stop the approaching train well in advance seemingly suffered a ‘major’ flaw and let the second train through, MailOnline has been told. It is also possible that the derailed train my have knocked out the signalling in the area when it derailed.  

Witnesses told of hearing a sound ‘like a bomb going off’ as the crash, one of the most serious in recent years on the UK rail network, unfolded. One woman who was on board told of her terror as she was thrown around the crashing train. 

Angela Mattingly, who was on the SWR train, said: ‘Everything went black and there were red flashes and everything.

‘There was suddenly a lot of jostling, possessions being thrown around and I think a few people went forward and hit their heads. You just don’t know for a couple of seconds what’s happening. People started to panic but nobody was seriously injured’.

Lucy Gregory told the BBC: ‘We were just pulling into Salisbury station and the train felt a bit juddery. I’d just stood up and put my coat on and my phone in my pocket when there was this massive impact and I fell across the table. The table came off the wall and I ended up underneath another table. They smashed the windows and we got out of the window. It was really scary.’ 

Last night a British Transport Police officer said the driver and a small number of people had been taken to hospital.

Speaking to Sky News, Inspector Mullah Hoque said they would remain on scene throughout the night to establish what happened.

He said: ‘Most of these people are walking wounded, however a small number, including the driver, have been taken to a hospital where their injuries are being assessed.’

Andy Cole, assistant chief fire officer for Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue service, said they had rescued approximately 100 people from the train carriages and confirmed there had been no fatalities.

Tamar Vellacott said she was walking outside with her young children, mother and partner on Jewell Close, Bishopdown, around a kilometre from the scene.

‘It was a noise we’ve never heard before… my young ones started panicking thinking it was a bomb and we said maybe a lorry had crashed on the London Road and not to panic,’ the 25-year-old said.

‘There was no screeching like brakes, just a long rumbling sound like thunder hitting the railway line.’


An injured man on one of the trains caught up in the horror smash in Salisbury last night (left). People were laying on the floor of one of the carriages (right) with cuts, suspected fractures and broken noses with some calling loved ones fearing they would die

Images taken from on board the derailed SWR train showed it at a 45-degree angle in the tunnel after the collision 

Emergency crews rushed to the scene at Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury following the collision at around 6.45pm yesterday evening. The SWR train from London to Devon is seen on an angle after colliding with a stopped GWR service


The entrance to Fisherton Tunnel near Salisbury. The rear carriage of a GWR train from Portsmouth to Bristol derailed after most of the train had entered the tunnel on the track that emerges from the left of this image. The SWR train then collided with it having approached the tunnel from the track that runs under the road this image is taken from. The rear of the GWR train was shunted into the tunnel wall at the left of the entrance, while the SWR train derailed more fully and crossed on to the right-side of the tunnel on a 45-degree angle

The drama unfolded in Fisherton Tunnel, a major junction joining two lines as they approach Salisbury from the south and from the east.

Firstly the 17:08 Great Western Rail service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads, which entered the junction from the south, hit an object the tunnel – possibly material that fell from the tunnel roof, sources said – and the rear carriage derailed. The train had been due into Salisbury at 6:28pm but bad weather was causing delays across the rail network.

Seven minutes later at around 6.45pm, the 17:20 South West Rail train from London Waterloo to Honiton in Devon, which was due into Salisbury at 6.47pm, sped into the junction from the east. For some reason signals had not alerted the driver of the obstruction – or had failed to stop his train if he missed the red lights.

The SWR train smashed into the stationary GWR service in the tunnel, derailed itself and skidded along the inside of the tunnel at 45-degrees, apparently being held up by the tunnel wall. Its driver was trapped in his mangled cab and needed to be cut free by emergency workers. Only the last carriage remained upright.

Tamar Vellacott told reporters that she was walking with her young children around half a mile from the scene when they heard the crash.

‘It was a noise we’ve never heard before, my young ones started panicking thinking it was a bomb and we said maybe a lorry had crashed on the London Road and not to panic,’ said the 25-year-old.

‘There was no screeching like brakes, just a long rumbling sound like thunder. It did spook us though, so we decided to get in our car and drive home. Three police cars passed us at speed.’ 

The engineer added that the incident would not have been avoidable if the oncoming train was too close to the derailed GWR, but given the seven-minute warning this could not have been the case.

‘There has been a major flaw within the signalling system within Network Rail.’  

Emergency services said they would remain at the scene of the collision through the night and it would be days before services could resume

A fleet of ambulances waiting at the scene of the collision. Most of those injured were described as ‘walking wounded’ however a ‘small number’ including one driver were take to hospital for checks

Police set up road blocks around the site of the crash. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said investigations into the crash would be undertaken in order to help prevent similar ‘serious’ incidents in future

Locals who live around a mile away described hearing a massive bang ‘like a bomb going off’ as the trains collided

Peter Golden, 52, from Laverstock, Wiltshire, said: ‘There is a deep cutting leading to a tunnel on the approach to Salisbury Station from the east and it looks like the collision is there.

‘It sounded like something big collapsing – the sound of things falling into each other. With the windy day we’ve had I first thought it was a big gust of wind that has knocked something heavy over. It wasn’t till the helicopter arrived on station over the tunnel that I realised what I had heard. The first helicopter arrived on station and started hovering about 30 to 40 mins after the collision.

‘On station means it arrives and hovers or circles – so to assist with eyes and lightning. There were lots of sirens and emergency vehicles on London Road.

‘Emergency vehicles were coming from the west and east – presumably Andover – as well as Salisbury. Friends nearer have mentioned passengers being guided up to the ambulances on London Road, so walking which is good.’

The incident is being investigated by the Office for Rail and Road and the Rail Accident Investigations Branch. 

Martin Frobisher, group safety and engineering director, technical authority, at Network Rail, said he does not know exactly what happened in the Salisbury train collision on Sunday evening.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘We’re hugely relieved that nobody was seriously injured, but the passengers must have had a really scary experience, and we’re very sorry for that.

‘We’re obviously starting now a very detailed and forensic investigation into what happened. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch are on site and they’re incredibly thorough in the work that they do. And that’ll help us learn from this, and that’s why these events are very rare, because we follow it up very, very carefully, and make sure that we do everything possible to prevent it for the future.’

Mr Frobisher said it is ‘far too early to speculate’, adding that there is ‘a lot of contradictory information’ in the early stages of an investigation.

Claire Mann, managing director of South Western Railway, said it is ‘too early to speculate’ about a collision between two trains in a tunnel near Salisbury.

She told Good Morning Britain: ‘Our focus at the moment is with the customers and colleagues that have been affected by this and obviously working with the emergency services to understand exactly what happened.

‘Speculation is really not appropriate at this time. We really need to wait for the investigation to take its course and then we’ll know exactly what happened.

‘But I would like to say a big thank you to the emergency services who were really swift in response last night, and we moved people from the train quite quickly.’

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch tonight said it had deployed inspectors to the site of a collision for a preliminary examination of the scene

Andy Cole (left) from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue speaks to the media near the scene of a crash involving two trains near the Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury in Wiltshire

Source: Read Full Article