The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has launched an investigation into what caused a passenger train and a tractor to collide on a level crossing near Thetford earlier this month.
At 12.30pm on April 10 a train travelling from Norwich to Cambridge collided with an agricultural tractor and trailer at Hockham Road level crossing, seriously injuring the tractor driver and causing minor injuries to the train driver and several passengers.
The crossing, which is on a private road near Thetford, also carries a public footpath and vehicle users must open and close the crossing gates themselves.
At the time of the accident, red and green lights which had been used to inform users whether it was safe to cross had been intentionally decommissioned and, instead, they had to use a telephone to obtain permission from a signaller at Cambridge before going over.
In a statement released yesterday, RAIB revealed that the tractor driver was given permission to cross the line, and had reached the mid-point when his vehicle was struck by train 1K77, the 12:03 Norwich to Cambridge service, travelling at 84mph.
There were 135 passengers and two crew on board the train, which did not derail and came to a stop 410 metres beyond the crossing.
The trailer, which separated from the tractor, struck the side of the train several times, breaking windows and puncturing the outer body of the train, before coming to rest next to the tractor at the side of the railway line.
The driving cab of the train was severely deformed by the impact, and the driver’s door broke away.
RAIB says its investigation will identify the sequence of events that led to the accident.
It will consider any factors which may have influenced the actions of the people involved, the method of authorising vehicles to use the crossing, the history of the crossing equipment, the performance of the train during the collision and any underlying management factors.
It states: “Our investigation is independent of any investigation by the railway industry, the Office of Road and Rail, and the British Transport Police.
“We will publish our findings, including any safety recommendations, at the conclusion of our investigation; these will be available on our RAIB website.”