A TRAIN crash that left 14 people in hospital could have been 'far more serious' if it had happened less than a minute earlier, a new investigation report has found.

At around 6.43pm on October 31, 2021, two trains crashed and derailed at Salisbury Tunnel Junction, the immediate approach to Fisherton Tunnel.

A South Western Railway passenger service, 1L53, passed a red signal and crashed into the side of a Great Western Railway train at around 52 miles per hour.

Thirteen passengers and one train driver required hospital treatment as a result of the incident.

But the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has today, October 24, said that a "potentially far more serious" crash between the 1L53 and an earlier train travelling in the opposite direction was avoided "by less than a minute".

The causes of the crash were that the wheel and rail adhesion was "very low" in the area where the 1L53 driver applied the train's brakes and the driver did not apply the brakes sufficiently early on approach to the junction.

The adhesion was very low due to leaf contamination on the railhead which had been made worse by rain that fell immediately before the passage of train 1L53.

A RAIB spokesperson said: "This leaf contamination resulted from the weather conditions on the day of the accident, coupled with an increased density of vegetation in the area which had not been effectively managed by Network Rail’s Wessex route."

To make matters worse, there was a loss of survival space in the driver’s cab of train 1L53 and the internal sliding doors jammed which obstructed passenger evacuation routes.

A probable underlying factor was that Network Rail’s Wessex route did not effectively manage the risks of low adhesion associated with the leaf fall season.

Investigators also found that South Western Railway not effectively preparing its drivers for assessing and reporting low adhesion conditions was a possible underlying factor.

The RAIB made two safety observations relating to the application of revised design criteria for the Train Protection and Warning System and the assessment of signal overrun risk and how this accounts for the high risk of low adhesion sites.

Recommendations made to Network Rail

Seven recommendations have been made to Network Rail which include training staff to deal with vegetation management and seasonal delivery, responses to emerging railhead low adhesion conditions, management of railhead treatment regimes, assessment of the risk of overrun at signals which have a site at high risk of low adhesion on approach and a review of the retrospective application of design criteria for the Train Protection and Warning System.

Since the incident, Network Rail has reviewed its training and competence framework for off-track staff at the network level and is also reviewing its adhesion management standards.

Network Rail’s Wessex route is reviewing its arrangements for proactively responding to reports of low adhesion, including how it undertakes railhead treatment.

South Western Railway has made changes relating to the training and briefing of its drivers to ensure information on autumn arrangements has been effectively briefed and understood.

Network Rail and South Western Railway have also jointly updated their annual autumn leaf fall working arrangements to ensure that sites at high risk of low adhesion are identified, reassessed, managed and monitored.