At approximately 21:40 hrs, the 20:10 hrs service from Charing Cross to Ramsgate travelling at approximately 70 mph (110 km/h) struck a number of cows that had gained access to the railway at Godmersham, between Wye and Chilham. Both bogies of the leading vehicle of the eight-car train derailed, and the vehicle then struck an underline (rail over river) bridge. The train stopped with the leading vehicle listing at about 20 degrees.
The driver of a train that had passed through the area an hour earlier, had reported seeing cows alongside the line near to the area where the accident subsequently occurred. The signaller cautioned the next train, which passed through the area at reduced speed. When the driver of this train reported seeing no cows, trains were permitted to run at normal speed again. Two further trains passed through with no reports from the drivers of anything unusual. In the meantime, staff had been sent to site to conduct a search and were starting to look for the animals when the accident happened.
Although there were no injuries to the crew or any of the passengers on board the derailed train, the driver and some of the passengers were reported to have suffered shock. All passengers were taken off the train by 23:40 hrs to the village hall at Godmersham, from where onward road transport had been arranged.
Our preliminary examination has found evidence indicating that the cows had gained access to the railway through an area of flattened lineside fencing.
The train was re-railed by approximately 22:30 hrs on Monday 27 July and work was able to commence to repair the track, signalling equipment and conductor rail (which supplies traction power to trains) over a length of approximately 400 metres. Work also commenced on re-building the parapet of the bridge that had been severely damaged when it was struck by the train. The line was re-opened for normal operation at 04:10 hrs on Thursday 30 July 2015.
Our investigation will examine the sequence of events before, during and after the incident, in particular:
- the fencing at this location
- the railway’s response to reports of cows being on the line
- the behaviour of the train after it struck the cows
It will also examine any relevant management issues.
Our investigation is independent of any investigation by the Office of Rail and Road.
We will publish our findings, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of our investigation. This report will be available on our website.
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