MORE than 700 passengers on a high-speed train had a lucky escape last year when their train smashed into fallen masonry on the line at Froxfield following police delays in notifying Network Rail of the danger.
A recent Rail Accident Investigation Branch report revealed that at around 5.31pm on February 22, 2015, the First Great Western service from Paddington to Penzance struck the debris that had fallen from the road bridge above, at 75mph.
The masonry had been dislodged by a lorry that had reversed into the Oak Hill Road bridge parapet at 5.20pm.
The report found that after a witness called 999 immediately to inform them of debris on the line, there was a delay of eight minutes in the information being passed on from Thames Valley Police to Network Rail.
The HGV had been reversing after encountering a canal bridge too narrow to pass.
With the train travelling at 86mph and approaching a bend, there followed a 15-minute period, between 5.23pm and 5.38pm, when several calls were made between four control rooms, at Thames Valley and Wiltshire police, British Transport Police and Network Rail.
The member of the public made a second 999 call to TVP, immediately following the train collision at 5.31pm, warning that trains travelling in the opposite direction, towards London, were now also in danger.
The train driver applied the emergency brake, before coming to a stop around 720 metres beyond the bridge – after the front had lifted up – without derailing.
The engine cab sustained damage to its leading bogie, braking system, running gear and underframe equipment.
The report flagged up two learning points, including one for police forces regarding the importance of contacting the appropriate railway control centre immediately, when the safety of a line was affected.
It also recommended to road vehicle standards bodies and the road haulage industry, the benefits of reversing cameras or sensors fitted to HGVs, after the report revealed the vehicle involved had neither fitted.
Network Rail should also install road signs on bridges warning drivers of a narrow road unsuitable for HGVs and including contact details to report incidents.
TVP spokeswoman Charlotte Redman said a force review had been provided to the RAIB and police procedures had been updated.
“It was very fortunate that nobody was injured during this incident. We have now taken measures to minimise the chances of this kind of miscommunication happening again,” said Ms Redman.