At about 19:36 hrs on 30 November 2011 a car that was being driven on the B1113 Stowmarket Road, towards the village of Old Newton in Suffolk, left the carriageway and passed through the wire fence onto the railway line north of Stowmarket.
The driver of the car was injured, but was able to escape to a place of safety, and reported the accident to Suffolk Police. A short time later the car was struck by the 18:43 hrs Cambridge to Ipswich train. Fortunately the train did not derail and neither passengers nor members of the train crew were physically injured.
The immediate cause of the accident on the highway was that the driver of the car lost control of his vehicle. The subsequent collision with the train occurred because the car came to rest in a position where it was obstructing the railway line and there was insufficient time to stop the train.
Suffolk County Council had undertaken a risk assessment in 2005 and assessed the risk of road vehicle incursion at the location where the accident occurred. It had not implemented steps to control the risk of incursion. Network Rail was also aware of the risk at the location, but had no process in place to monitor the actions of local highway authorities to address the risk of road vehicle incursions and had assumed that Suffolk County Council was taking suitable actions.
A number of underlying factors were identified which showed Network Rail’s awareness of road vehicle incursion incident sites was limited, and the joint risk management process adopted by Network Rail and Suffolk County Council in 2003 (following the fatal train accident at Great Heck in 2001) had not been completed. As a consequence, the investigation identified that there were nine locations within Suffolk where action to reduce RVI risk had still to be taken. Network Rail has identified over 200 sites on the national rail network where action has still to be taken to reduce the risk of road vehicle incursion.
It was also found that the Department for Transport’s (DfT) monitoring of the progress to mitigate the risk at known sites with significant road vehicle incursion risk was not effective, nor did it emphasise to local highway authorities and Network Rail the requirement to complete such works. The RAIB considers that regulatory oversight by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) of works to address the risk of road vehicle incursion was affected by a lack of clarity as to which body has enforcement powers to require local highway authorities to take action.
RAIB has made two recommendations to Suffolk County Council. These cover:
- the need for an independent review of the actions it has taken since the accident to address the deficiencies in its process for the management of road vehicle incursion risk; and
- the need to improve the flow of information to parish and district councils and the police on related matters.
RAIB has made two recommendations to Network Rail. These cover:
- a review of the current data on road vehicle incursion sites; and
- improvements to the way road vehicle incursion risk is monitored.
RAIB has made one recommendation to the ORR and HSE. This covers the need to clarify which body has regulatory and enforcement responsibility relating to the management of road vehicle incursion risk.
RAIB has made four recommendations to the Department for Transport. These cover:
- the need to monitor progress with the implementation of risk mitigation measures at road vehicle incursion sites;
- establishment of a mechanism for the lessons learnt from this investigation to be disseminated to other local highway authorities
- improving the exchange of information that is relevant to the risk of road vehicle incursion
- gathering intelligence on high risk road vehicle incursion locations as an input to emergency planning.
Response to recommendations:
- RAIB will periodically update the status of recommendations as reported to us by the relevant safety authority or public body
- RAIB may add comment, particularly if we have concerns regarding these responses.