Salisbury train ran past stop signal after wheels slipped on rails

Salisbury train ran past stop signal after wheels slipped on rails

Train in Salisbury crash ran 240 yards past stop signal before slamming into locomotive in tunnel after wheels slipped on rails as driver applied the brakes, investigators say

  • Investigators believe train’s wheels slipped on the rails before horror collision
  • The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has produced a preliminary report
  • The collision just outside a tunnel near Salisbury caused both trains to derail 
  • Robin Tandy, 74, the driver of one of the trains, suffered ‘life-changing injuries’
  • Passengers fearing they were about to die had called loved ones to say goodbye 

A train involved in the Salisbury rail crash ran 240 yards past a stop signal before slamming into another service after its wheels slipped on the rails as the driver applied the brakes, investigators have said.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has said the 74-year-old driver of the South Western Railway (SWR) train, Robin Tandy, attempted to apply the brakes before reaching the signal.

However, despite the driver and the train’s automatic protection system also requesting emergency breaking, it did not stop until it reached the junction outside Fisherton Tunnel.

The train subsequently smashed into the side of a stationary Great Western Railway (GWR) service. 

In a preliminary report, investigators attributed this to the SWR train’s wheels slipping on the rails. 

The collision caused both trains to derail. 

Passengers on the GWR service were thrown around their pitch-black carriages before it ‘jolted’ to a halt. 

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

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

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

As part of an ongoing probe into the incident, investigators have said they will examine how Network Rail managed the risk of ‘low wheel/rail adhesion’ where the collision took place. 

It is understood that one of the trains was ‘almost certainly’ affected by ‘low adhesion between the wheels and the track’, which meant it was unable to stop at a red signal.  

Low adhesion can be caused by ‘contaminants’ on the line such as leaves, moisture, oil and grease, is particularly common in autumn and can impact a train’s ability to stop, according to the Rail Safety Standards Board.

The issue can be particularly severe in the autumn due to leaves falling from the trees onto the tracks.

The leaves created a thin, slippery layer which create a similar effect to that of black ice on roads.

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 

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

Police and firefighters at the scene of a crash involving two trains near the Fisherton Tunnel

It makes it more difficult for trains to accelerate and brake efficiently, leading to some operators producing special autumn timetables to allow extra time for trains to be driven at a more cautious speed.  

Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s safety and engineering director, said on Tuesday night that the issue ‘affects railways across the world’ 

He added that the annual problem is something that the industry bodies ‘work hard to combat so that we can run trains safely and reliably throughout autumn’.   

The RAIB has also said it will consider Network Rail and SWR’s general policies towards the issue.

‘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.’ 

A total of 92 passengers were on both trains when they collided just outside Salisbury city centre. 

Thirty passengers attended a casualty centre set up in a nearby church, 13 of whom were taken to hospital to be treated for minor injuries. 

Passengers fearing they were about to die had called loved ones to say goodbye. 

Mr Tandy, though, has suffered ‘life-changing injuries’, according to police. 

SWR managing director Claire Mann said the driver, who continues to be treated in hospital, ‘reacted correctly to the signals by braking to slow the train down’.

She added: ‘We believe his actions went some way to preventing a much more serious incident and we wish him a speedy recovery.’

The rail operator said Mr Tandy has over 50 years’ experience of driving on the route’ and has ‘an excellent professional track record’.

A statement said all drivers undergo regular assessments ‘to the highest standards’ and the injured driver ‘fully satisfied all requirements’

There is no mandatory retirement age for train drivers in the UK. 

Drivers can keep their licence for as long as they continue to pass regular medical and competence assessments.  

Cameron Thrower, one of the passengers involved in the collision, described the ‘extremely scary’ moment he was suddenly ‘thrown’ onto the floor after the trains crashed. 

Speaking to BBC Breakfast from his home in Dorset, he said: ‘The next thing I know there’s just an almighty noise, I’m being thrown about the joiner carriage.

‘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.’

‘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.’  

Another 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.’ 

Other witnesses recalled hearing a sound ‘like a bomb going off’ as the crash, one of the most serious in recent years on the UK rail network, took place.  

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. 

Driver of train left with ‘life changing’ injuries partially retired 74-year-old rail veteran and ‘probably the most experienced in the country’

 The hero train driver who averted tragedy in Sunday night’s rail collision at Salisbury is a 74-year-old veteran with years of rail driving experience, MailOnline can reveal.

Robin Tandy had just six seconds to react and apply the emergency brakes before flinging himself away from the driver’s side of his cab as his train collided with another in a tunnel.

Hero train driver Robin Tandy (pictured), who averted tragedy in Sunday night’s rail collision at Salisbury, is a 74-year-old veteran with years of rail driving experience, MailOnline can reveal

Miraculously, no one was killed and Mr Tandy’s quick-thinking actions have been hailed by colleagues for preventing a high number of casualties and deaths following the accident.

But it came at a cost to him personally as he was airlifted to University Hospital Southampton with what police described as ‘life-changing’ injuries.

‘You just don’t know for a couple of seconds what’s happening. People started to panic but nobody was seriously injured.’

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

The 25-year-old said: ‘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.’

Fisherton Tunnel is a major junction joining two lines as they approach Salisbury from the south and from the east.

Firstly the 5.08pm Great Western Rail service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads, which entered the junction from the south, is said to have hit an object in 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 5.20pm SWR 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.

British Transport Police Detective Chief Inspector Paul Langley said: ‘This will no doubt have been an incredibly frightening experience for all those involved and our thoughts are with them and their families today.

‘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.

‘We are keeping an open mind but 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’.

Disruption to services through Salisbury is expected to continue until at least the end of the day on Monday November 8.

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