News story

Collision between a train and a wooden sleeper, near Somerleyton

This news article was withdrawn on 10 November 2015

This item has been moved to the National Archives as RAIB has published its bulletin describing this accident. See Bulletin 03/2015

Investigation into a collision between a train and a wooden sleeper, near Somerleyton, Suffolk, 18 June 2015

The train, reporting number 5J61, comprising two Class 170, three-car diesel multiple units, was the 04:20 hrs empty coaching stock service from Norwich Crown Point Depot to Lowestoft. It was travelling at about 35 mph (56 km/h), when just after passing through Somerleyton station, at around 05:50 hrs, the driver reported that his train had struck something. The driver applied the train’s brakes and brought the train to a stand.

After contacting the signaller and being given permission to go onto the tracks to examine his train, the driver left the cab and found a wooden sleeper wedged underneath the front of the train. The driver, who was accompanied by a second driver, removed the sleeper and found another two sleepers nearby; one lying in the middle of the track under the train and one lying close to the track a short distance behind the train. There were no injuries and there was only minor damage to the train.

Train 5J61 was the first train to pass through Somerleyton following engineering work the night before. Work had taken place to collect bundles of scrap wooden sleepers alongside the railway between Somerleyton and Oulton Broad North (towards Lowestoft) using a road rail vehicle with front and rear trailers. During this work, three sleepers fell onto the railway and the staff undertaking this work were not aware of this when they handed the railway back so that trains could start running again.

Image showing the road rail vehicle and trailers used to collect the scrap sleepers (image courtesy of Network Rail)
Image showing the road rail vehicle and trailers used to collect the scrap sleepers (image courtesy of Network Rail)

Our investigation will examine the sequence of events leading up to and during the collision, the engineering work that took place earlier that night to collect scrap wooden sleepers including its planning and the method of work, and any relevant management issues.

Our investigation is independent of any investigation by the railway industry or the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). We will publish our findings, including safety learning points, in a bulletin at the conclusion of our investigation; this will be available on our website.

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