Train near Salisbury ‘derailed SEVEN MINUTES before second intercity smashed into it in tunnel’


Salisbury train crash: What we know so far

TRAIN 1 DERAILS AT 18.38pm

The 17.08pm Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads run by Great Western Railway hits something as it enters the Fisherton Tunnel in Salisbury, sending it off the rails at around 18.38pm on Sunday.

Dozens of people are trapped inside for seven minutes before the second crash.

TRAIN 2 HITS TRAIN 1 AT 18.45pm 

The 17.20pm London Waterloo to Honiton in Devon run by South West Rail is due at Salisbury Station at 18.47pm.

At 18.45pm it hits the GWR service that had derailed and is partially on the wrong track. 

Investigators are looking into why the signalling in the area failed to stop it after the first train derailed.    

A ‘major flaw’ with signals that failed to automatically turn red after a train derailed in Wiltshire last night allowed a high-speed inter-city service to smash into the sitting duck locomotive leaving at least 17 people injured, a senior railway engineer told MailOnline today.

Passengers on a Great Western Railways service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads were thrown around their pitch-black carriages after their train hit an object as it entered the Fisherton Tunnel in Salisbury, sending it off the rails.

Around 60 people were stranded on the derailed train for seven minutes before a South Western Railway service from London to Honiton in Devon with around 60 more people on board ploughed into it at around 6.45pm after signals allegedly failed to kick in.

Those on board the trains described a huge bang like a ‘bomb going off’ when the collision happened, followed by flying glass, sparks from the grinding metal and even tables flying across the carriages. 

Firefighters and paramedics rescued around 120 people, including a three-week-old baby. 17 people were injured including one of the drivers, who was cut free having suffered a suspected broken ankle. A ‘small number’ of people were taken to hospital, while the ‘walking wounded’ were cared for at a nearby church where local people offered support in the form of blankets, food, drinks and first aid.

Officials declared it a ‘critical’ incident as observers claimed it was a miracle nobody was killed, with passengers admitting they thought they were going to die as the carriages filled with smoke.

A major rail accident investigation is underway and experts will look at why signals that should have turned red to stop the approaching train well in advance seemingly suffered a ‘major’ flaw and let the second train through, MailOnline has been told. It is also possible that the derailed train my have knocked out the signalling in the area when it derailed.

The Office for Rail and Road and the Rail Accident Investigations Branch will also look at what caused the train to derail including whether yesterday’s bad weather led to a piece of the tunnel falling down or a landslide. 

A senior Network Rail engineer with more than 10 years’ experience and who had seen information about the crash said only a ‘major’ signalling error could have caused the crash.

Speaking to MailOnline on condition of anonymity, they claimed that when the GWR train collided with an object and derailed, there should be an ‘automatic obstruction warning’ to stop any train entering that same mile-long stretch. 

‘There has been a major flaw within the signalling system within Network Rail. The system says that the line is not safe for the passage of another train because there is an obstruction on the line,’ they said, adding: ‘According to my system, the signalling system was aware seven minutes before impact. It should’ve automatically stopped the train. It should’ve automatically set all signals to red. If the driver didn’t see the signal, the system should’ve made the train stop.’  The whistleblower added: ‘I’ve realised for a number of years there has been numerous failures within [Network Rail]’ and said they had feared an incident like this would happen ‘for the past two years’.

Witnesses told of hearing a sound ‘like a bomb going off’ as the crash, one of the most serious in recent years on the UK rail network, unfolded. One woman who was on board told of her terror as she was thrown around the crashing train. 

Angela Mattingly, who was on the SWR train, said: ‘Everything went black and there were red flashes and everything.

‘There was suddenly a lot of jostling, possessions being thrown around and I think a few people went forward and hit their heads. You just don’t know for a couple of seconds what’s happening. People started to panic but nobody was seriously injured’.

Lucy Gregory told the BBC: ‘We were just pulling into Salisbury station and the train felt a bit juddery. I’d just stood up and put my coat on and my phone in my pocket when there was this massive impact and I fell across the table. The table came off the wall and I ended up underneath another table. They smashed the windows and we got out of the window. It was really scary.’ 

The scene at the Fisherton Tunnel in Salisbury today where the railway line remains closed for investigations after two trains collided

The GWR train on the left derailed at around 6.38pm last night and around seven minutes later the SWR train on the right of the picture slammed into it after signalling failed to kick in

The GWR train on the left derailed at around 6.38pm last night and around seven minutes later the SWR train on the right of the picture slammed into it after signalling failed to kick in  

The SWR service, being referred to as ‘Train 2’, appears to be the most badly damaged of the two trains

Emergency crews rushed to the scene at Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury following the collision where 120 were evacuated and 17 were injured

Emergency crews rushed to the scene at Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury following the collision where 120 were evacuated and 17 were injured

The South West Railway train (left) is seen with its cab mangled after hitting the back of the stationary GWR service, which had previously partially derailed in a tunnel close to Salisbury station

The South West Railway train (left) is seen with its cab mangled after hitting the back of the stationary GWR service, which had previously partially derailed in a tunnel close to Salisbury station 

Experts have said that the second train (pictured) should not have made it to the crash scene if signalling was working properly

Experts have said that the second train (pictured) should not have made it to the crash scene if signalling was working properly

Images taken from on board the derailed SWR train showed it at a 45-degree angle in the tunnel after the collision

Images taken from on board the derailed SWR train showed it at a 45-degree angle in the tunnel after the collision 

Emergency crews rushed to the scene at Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury following the collision at around 6.45pm yesterday evening. The SWR train from London to Devon is seen on an angle after colliding with a stopped GWR service

Emergency crews rushed to the scene at Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury following the collision at around 6.45pm yesterday evening. The SWR train from London to Devon is seen on an angle after colliding with a stopped GWR service

The entrance to Fisherton Tunnel near Salisbury.

The entrance to Fisherton Tunnel near Salisbury. The rear carriage of a GWR train from Portsmouth to Bristol derailed after most of the train had entered the tunnel on the track that emerges from the left of this image. The SWR train then collided with it having approached the tunnel from the track that runs under the road this image is taken from. The rear of the GWR train was shunted into the tunnel wall at the left of the entrance, while the SWR train derailed more fully and crossed on to the right-side of the tunnel on a 45-degree angle

The entrance to Fisherton Tunnel near Salisbury. The rear carriage of a GWR train from Portsmouth to Bristol derailed after most of the train had entered the tunnel on the track that emerges from the left of this image. The SWR train then collided with it having approached the tunnel from the track that runs under the road this image is taken from. The rear of the GWR train was shunted into the tunnel wall at the left of the entrance, while the SWR train derailed more fully and crossed on to the right-side of the tunnel on a 45-degree angle

‘It sounded like a bomb going off’ 

Witnesses described hearing a massive bang ‘like a bomb going off’ as two trains collided in the tunnel near Salisbury last night.

A local resident living near the tunnels said she was out with her children celebrating hallowe’en when they heard the noise of the train crash which she liked to thunder or a bomb going off..

Tamar Vellacott told reporters that she was out with her children and mother celebrating hallowe’en at the time of the crash.

‘It was a noise we’ve never heard before, my young ones started panicking thinking it was a bomb and we said maybe a lorry had crashed on the London Road and not to panic,’ said the 25-year-old.

‘There was no screeching like brakes, just a long rumbling sound like thunder. It did spook us though, so we decided to get in our car and drive home. Three police cars passed us at speed.’ 

Peter Golden, 52, from Laverstock, Wiltshire, said the collision ‘sounded like something big collapsing – the sound of things falling into each other’.

‘With the windy day we’ve had I first thought it was a big gust of wind that has knocked something heavy over.

‘It wasn’t till the helicopter arrived on station over the tunnel that I realised what I had heard.

‘The first helicopter arrived on station and started hovering about 30 to 40 mins after the collision. 

‘There were lots of sirens and emergency vehicles on London Road.

‘Emergency vehicles were coming from the west and east – presumably Andover – as well as Salisbury.’ 

Police gave a press conference early this morning but could only say ‘a small number’ of those injured had been taken to hospital. 

The drama unfolded in Fisherton Tunnel, a major junction joining two lines as they approach Salisbury from the south and from the east.

Firstly the 17:08 Great Western Rail service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads, which entered the junction from the south, hit an object the tunnel – possibly material that fell from the tunnel roof, sources said – and the rear carriage derailed. The train had been due into Salisbury at 6:28pm but bad weather was causing delays across the rail network.

Seven minutes later at around 6.45pm, the 17:20 South West Rail train from London Waterloo to Honiton in Devon, which was due into Salisbury at 6.47pm, sped into the junction from the east. For some reason signals had not alerted the driver of the obstruction – or had failed to stop his train if he missed the red lights.

The SWR train smashed into the stationary GWR service in the tunnel, derailed itself and skidded along the inside of the tunnel at 45-degrees, apparently being held up by the tunnel wall. Its driver was trapped in his mangled cab and needed to be cut free by emergency workers. Only the last carriage remained upright.

Tamar Vellacott told reporters that she was walking with her young children around half a mile from the scene when they heard the crash.

‘It was a noise we’ve never heard before, my young ones started panicking thinking it was a bomb and we said maybe a lorry had crashed on the London Road and not to panic,’ said the 25-year-old.

‘There was no screeching like brakes, just a long rumbling sound like thunder. It did spook us though, so we decided to get in our car and drive home. Three police cars passed us at speed.’ 

The engineer added that the incident would not have been avoidable if the oncoming train was too close to the derailed GWR, but given the seven-minute warning this could not have been the case.

‘There has been a major flaw within the signalling system within Network Rail.’ 

Peter Golden, 52, from Laverstock, Wiltshire, said: ‘There is a deep cutting leading to a tunnel on the approach to Salisbury Station from the east and it looks like the collision is there.

‘It sounded like something big collapsing – the sound of things falling into each other.

‘With the windy day we’ve had I first thought it was a big gust of wind that has knocked something heavy over.

‘It wasn’t till the helicopter arrived on station over the tunnel that I realised what I had heard.

‘The first helicopter arrived on station and started hovering about 30 to 40 mins after the collision.

‘On station means it arrives and hovers or circles – so to assist with eyes and lightning.

‘There were lots of sirens and emergency vehicles on London Road.

‘Emergency vehicles were coming from the west and east – presumably Andover – as well as Salisbury.

‘Friends nearer have mentioned passengers being guided up to the ambulances on London Road, so walking which is good.’

The incident is being investigated by the Office for Rail and Road and the Rail Accident Investigations Branch. 

Martin Frobisher, group safety and engineering director, technical authority, at Network Rail, said he does not know exactly what happened in the Salisbury train collision on Sunday evening.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘We’re hugely relieved that nobody was seriously injured, but the passengers must have had a really scary experience, and we’re very sorry for that.

‘We’re obviously starting now a very detailed and forensic investigation into what happened.

‘The Rail Accident Investigation Branch are on site and they’re incredibly thorough in the work that they do.

‘And that’ll help us learn from this, and that’s why these events are very rare, because we follow it up very, very carefully, and make sure that we do everything possible to prevent it for the future.’

Mr Frobisher said it is ‘far too early to speculate’, adding that there is ‘a lot of contradictory information’ in the early stages of an investigation.

Emergency services said they would remain at the scene of the collision through the night and it would be days before services could resume

Emergency services said they would remain at the scene of the collision through the night and it would be days before services could resume

A fleet of ambulances waiting at the scene of the collision. Most of those injured were described as 'walking wounded' however a 'small number' including one driver were take to hospital for checks

A fleet of ambulances waiting at the scene of the collision. Most of those injured were described as ‘walking wounded’ however a ‘small number’ including one driver were take to hospital for checks

Around 50 firefighters as well as Wiltshire Police and ambulance attended the scene

Around 50 firefighters as well as Wiltshire Police and ambulance attended the scene

Firefighters take cutting equipment towards the scene of the train crash in Salisbury last night. The driver of the London to Honiton service needed freeing from his mangled cab

Firefighters take cutting equipment towards the scene of the train crash in Salisbury last night. The driver of the London to Honiton service needed freeing from his mangled cab

Police set up road blocks around the site of the crash. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said investigations into the crash would be undertaken in order to help prevent similar 'serious' incidents in future

Police set up road blocks around the site of the crash. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said investigations into the crash would be undertaken in order to help prevent similar ‘serious’ incidents in future

Locals who live around a mile away described hearing a massive bang 'like a bomb going off' as the trains collided

Locals who live around a mile away described hearing a massive bang ‘like a bomb going off’ as the trains collided

Signalling for the area has been wiped out, with South Western Railway warning that all lines running through Salisbury and Andover are currently blocked while an investigation takes place.

Signalling for the area has been wiped out, with South Western Railway warning that all lines running through Salisbury and Andover are currently blocked while an investigation takes place.

Dozens of emergency workers, including 50 firefighters, raced to the scene of the crash.

Footage showed shocked survivors being led from the derailed trains along the tracks, with firefighters and rail staff lighting their way with torches.

Crash survivor Corinna Anderson told the BBC she saw a newborn baby being rescued from the GWR train that had derailed first.

She told the BBC: ‘I did hear and see that on the Temple Meads train there was a three-week-old baby that was rescued off the train by the fire service and thankfully she is doing ok.

‘As I climbed off my train I saw the fireman cradling the baby in his arms and then I saw the mother get given the baby and they were escorted away for medical attention.’

Sailor Morgan Harris, who was travelling from London Waterloo back to his base in Yeovil, said he was thrown from his seat due to the impact of the huge crash.

The 20 year old Able Seaman said: ‘It was all going along normally then, all of a sudden, there was this massive bang and all of the lights went out.

‘There was sparks and flames from where we had come off the track, and there was a load of ash coming from outside.

‘Our train was on its side… I was thrown out of my seat and banged against the table.’

Passenger Dimitri Popa, from Romania, was travelling on the train from London to Sherborne when the terrifying crash occurred.

The 17 year old said: ‘It all happened so fast… I was just sitting in the first carriage and there was a huge crash.

‘Then I saw the flames and got pretty scared, and all the lights went out.

‘The carriage was 45 degrees to the right.

‘We didn’t know where we were or anything… we were all just so shocked.’

British Transport Police said a casualty centre has been set up at St Mark’s Church in the city.

The reverend of the church said 120 train passengers were taken to the site, with some ‘visibly shaken’ and injured.

Reverend Andy Bousfield was ‘just settling down for a quiet evening’ when he heard police cars and a helicopter, and later got a call from an officer asking if he could open up the church.

He said: ‘I was settling down for a quiet evening and the phone rang about the same time as I heard police cars go past and a helicopter overhead.

‘It was a police officer phoning to say he was outside the church and asking if they could use it.. I said ‘I can be there in five minutes’.

‘Within 10 minutes people started coming in.

‘The first people seemed to be absolutely fine, there were a few with injuries, some of them were shaken and just wanted somewhere to sit down.

‘We just popped the kettle on and in fact some of the neighbours popped around with biscuits and milk* It’s a real pulling together.

‘We’ve had a lot of calls from members of the church asking if they can help.

‘There was about 100, 120 people.. it was a lot of cups of tea.

‘It was quite nice that the community came together at the last minute for an emergency.’

Firefighters and police officers are seen standing with South Western Railway staff on a bridge overlooking the section of railway where the derailment occurred

Firefighters and police officers are seen standing with South Western Railway staff on a bridge overlooking the section of railway where the derailment occurred

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch tonight said it had deployed inspectors to the site of a collision for a preliminary examination of the scene

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch tonight said it had deployed inspectors to the site of a collision for a preliminary examination of the scene

An Office of Rail and Road spokesperson added: 'We’re supporting Network Rail and the train operators, plus RAIB and the British Transport Police, with respect to the collision between two trains near Salisbury Tunnel Junction and liaising with emergency services responding to the incident'

An Office of Rail and Road spokesperson added: ‘We’re supporting Network Rail and the train operators, plus RAIB and the British Transport Police, with respect to the collision between two trains near Salisbury Tunnel Junction and liaising with emergency services responding to the incident’

Andy Cole (left) from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue speaks to the media near the scene of a crash involving two trains near the Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury in Wiltshire

Andy Cole (left) from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue speaks to the media near the scene of a crash involving two trains near the Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury in Wiltshire

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said investigations into the crash would be undertaken in order to help prevent similar ‘serious’ incidents in future.

‘My thoughts go out to those affected by the serious rail incident near Salisbury,’ Mr Shapps tweeted.

Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris added: ‘I am aware of a rail incident that took place near Salisbury.

‘Emergency Services are on the scene and I am in close communication with Network Rail & operators.

‘Our thoughts are with those affected by this serious incident.’

Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘We will have to await further details, but this is a very sobering reminder about why safety on our railways is always paramount.

‘The thoughts of our entire union are with the loved ones of everyone caught up in what may well turn out to be a tragic event.

‘No doubt that over the coming days and weeks we will find out why this accident happened. A full investigation will now need to follow.’

The British Transport Police issued a statement and said officers would remain on scene throughout the night.

‘We were called to Fisherton Tunnel in Salisbury at 6.46pm tonight following reports of a train derailment which involved two passenger trains colliding.

‘Officers are continuing to respond to the incident alongside our emergency service colleagues and the line is expected to be shut for some time.

‘Thankfully there have been no fatalities however a number of people have been injured and a casualty centre has been opened at a nearby church.

‘Most of these people are walking wounded however a small number, including the driver, have been taken to hospital where their injuries are being assessed.

‘A major incident has been declared and this has been a large scale, multi-agency response working closely alongside our colleagues in Wiltshire.

‘We will remain on scene throughout the night working to establish the full circumstances of how this incident came to happen.’

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch tonight said it had deployed inspectors to the site of a collision for a preliminary examination of the scene.

An Office of Rail and Road spokesperson added: ‘We’re supporting Network Rail and the train operators, plus RAIB and the British Transport Police, with respect to the collision between two trains near Salisbury Tunnel Junction and liaising with emergency services responding to the incident.’

A Network Rail spokesperson said: ‘At around 7pm this evening, the rear carriage of the 1708 Great Western Railway service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads derailed after striking an object on its approach to Salisbury station.

‘The derailment knocked out all of the signalling in the area. Subsequently, the 1720 South Western Railway service from London Waterloo to Honiton then collided with the Bristol train.

‘There are reports of injuries and the emergency services are on site along with railway first responders.’

Disruption to services in the area was expected to last for days.

MailOnline have approached British Transport Police and Network Rail for comment on the whistleblower’s claims.



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