The investigation report into a train that crashed en route to Honiton could have been 'far more serious' if it had happened less than a minute earlier.

A report released today by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch highlighted numerous safety issues, including jammed doors which hampered passengers' escape routes.

At around 6.43pm on October 31, 2021, two trains crashed and derailed at Salisbury Tunnel Junction, the immediate approach to Fisherton Tunnel. 

Andrew Hall, Chief Inspector, Rail Accident Investigation Branch said: “This was a very serious accident and the first time since our inception in 2005 that RAIB has investigated the collision of two passenger trains travelling at significant speed. Fourteen people were taken to hospital, including two who were seriously injured.

“The phrase 'leaves on the line’ may cause some to smile. But the risks associated with leaves being crushed onto the top of rails by the pressure of trains’ wheels, resulting in a slippery layer, is very real and long known. As with many accidents, this one resulted from a combination of many different circumstances coming together, both in the time before the accident and on the day. As a result, the barriers put in place to avoid this type of event did not work effectively.

“Accidents like this are thankfully very rare, but it is vital that we learn the lessons when things do go wrong. Along with action already taken by industry, the ten recommendations we have made today will minimise the chances of an accident like this happening again.”

A South Western Railway passenger service, 1L53, passed a red signal and crashed into the side of a Great Western Railway train at around 52 miles per hour.

Thirteen passengers and one train driver required hospital treatment.

But the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has today, October 24, said that a "potentially far more serious" crash between the 1L53 and an earlier train travelling in the opposite direction was avoided "by less than a minute".

The causes of the crash were that the wheel and rail adhesion was "very low" in the area where the 1L53 driver applied the train's brakes and the driver did not apply the brakes sufficiently early on approach to the junction.

The adhesion was very low due to leaf contamination on the railhead which had been made worse by rain that fell immediately before the passage of train 1L53.

To make matters worse, there was a loss of survival space in the driver’s cab of train 1L53 and the internal sliding doors jammed which obstructed passenger evacuation routes.

A probable underlying factor was that Network Rail’s Wessex route did not effectively manage the risks of low adhesion associated with the leaf fall season.

Investigators also found that South Western Railway not effectively preparing its drivers for assessing and reporting low adhesion conditions was a possible underlying factor.

The RAIB made two safety observations relating to the application of revised design criteria for the Train Protection and Warning System and the assessment of signal overrun risk and how this accounts for the high risk of low adhesion sites.

Seven recommendations have been made to Network Rail which include training staff to deal with vegetation management and seasonal delivery, responses to emerging railhead low adhesion conditions, management of railhead treatment regimes, assessment of the risk of overrun at signals which have a site at high risk of low adhesion on approach and a review of the retrospective application of design criteria for the Train Protection and Warning System.