RAIB is investigating a collision between a high speed train (HST) and a bridge parapet which had fallen onto the railway at Oak Hill, an unclassified road off the A4 on the edge of the village of Froxfield, between Hungerford and Bedwyn. The accident occurred at about 17:31 hrs on Sunday 22 February 2015, when the heavily loaded 16:34 hrs First Great Western service from London Paddington to Penzance (train reporting number 1C89) hit brick debris while travelling at about 90 mph (145 km/h). The train driver had no opportunity to brake before hitting the debris, and the impact lifted the front of the train. Fortunately, the train did not derail, and the driver applied the emergency brake. The train stopped after travelling a further 730 metres (800 yards). There were no injuries. The leading power car sustained underframe damage and there was damage to the train’s braking system.
The bridge parapet had originally been struck at about 17:20 hrs by a reversing articulated lorry. The lorry driver had turned off the A4 at a junction just north of the railway bridge, and crossed over the railway before encountering a canal bridge 40 metres further on which he considered to be too narrow for his vehicle. A pair of road signs located just south of the A4 junction warn vehicle drivers of a hump back bridge and double bends but there were no weight or width restriction signs. The lorry driver stopped before the canal bridge and attempted to reverse round a bend and back over the railway bridge without assistance, and was unaware when the rear of his trailer first made contact with, and then toppled, the brick parapet on the east side of the railway bridge. The entire parapet, weighing around 13 tonnes, fell onto the railway, obstructing both tracks. This was witnessed by a car driver who was travelling behind the lorry. The car driver left his vehicle to alert the lorry driver and he then contacted the emergency services by dialing 999 on his mobile phone at about 17:21 hrs.
RAIB’s investigation will consider the sequence of events and factors that led to the accident. The investigation will include a review of the adequacy of road signage and the overall response to the emergency call made by the motorist who witnessed the collapse of the bridge parapet. It will identify any safety lessons from the accident and post-accident response.
Our investigation is independent of any investigations by the railway industry or safety authority.
We will publish our findings at the conclusion of the investigation. This report will be available on the our website.