Collision between a train and a wooden sleeper

Collision between a train and a wooden sleeper, near Somerleyton, Suffolk, 18 June 2015.

At about 05:50 hrs, a train struck a wooden sleeper lying across the track just after passing through Somerleyton station, while travelling at about 35 mph (56 km/h). At the time the driver did not know what his train had struck but 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. 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.

During Engineering work the night before, bundles of scrap wooden sleepers had been collected from alongside the railway between Somerleyton and Oulton Broad North using a road/rail vehicle with front and rear trailers. 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.

RAIB has identified two learning points. The first is for Network Rail to remind its staff who plan work involving the lifting and transporting of loads on trailers, that control measures should be specified in the authorised work plan. The second reinforces the need for the Rule Book (GE/RT8000) to be reviewed with the objective of clarifying the responsibilities for ensuring the safety of the line at the conclusion of engineering work. This issue is already identified in recommendation 2 of our investigation into an accident in Watford tunnel, RAIB report 12/2015.


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