Oxshott train crash "could have been avoided"

A cement mixer crashing off a railway bridge and on to a moving train could have been avoided, a report into the incident has stated.

The Railway Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report, published on August 4, was in response to an incident in Oxshott on November 5 last year.

RAIB, which had no previous record of a vehicle falling on to a moving train as a consequence of a bridge strike in Great Britain, said: “This accident was therefore unusual, if not unique."

Of the 36 passengers on board, a 60-year-old man was seriously injured when he was trapped in the wreckage, four were slightly injured, and the lorry driver – who has since faced criminal charges – was hospitalised for two days.

The report listed the immediate causes of the crash as the lorry driving too close to the carriageway edge and being unable to regain control after it hit a parapet.

It also said the force of lorry exceeded the parapet’s containment capacity, so it collapsed in sections on to the line below.

However, Surrey County Council (SCC) and Network Rail came under fire because the end parapet was not visible, obscured by vegetation and had a reflective marker missing.

The report said: "Had the parapet end been more clearly marked, it is possible that the lorry driver would have become aware of it early enough to avoid it."

A missing reflective post was not spotted in safety inspections, and repeated vehicle strikes had not been reported by Network Rail to the local authority, so they did not realise the dangers.

RAIB said: “The new and longstanding damage recorded in January 2004 and further damage recorded in August 2006 provides evidence that the most recent accident was neither an isolated nor an unforeseeable event.

“However, Surrey County Council regarded this part of the A244 as having a relatively good accident history, and as a consequence, no works were planned or considered necessary at this site."

Petru Achim, 35, of Hook in Hampshire, was driving the cement mixer that crashed through the bridge wall in Warren Lane, Oxshott.

He had only been driving LGVs for three weeks at the time of the accident and was in his first week of unaccompanied driving.

The mixer plunged 35ft off the bridge, that was built in 1885, to a train travelling 28mph that had just left Oxshott train station.

Some people members of public climbed down the bridge to help and an off-duty police officer who was a passenger on board helped the seriously injured man until paramedics arrived.

Since the accident, vegetation has been cut back so the parapet is more visible, but the end marker of the parapet has still not been replaced, nor has any protection been provided to mark the end of the parapet to drivers.

FIVE RECOMMENDATIONS: 1) SCC should reinforce the requirement for regular checks to be made on parapet ends on railway bridges to ensure makers are maintained, and free from obstruction.

2) Department of Transport should issue guidance to highway authorities on highlighting the unprotected ends or parapets where it presents a possible hazard to road users.

3) Network Rail should record highway features which increase risk to the railway, such as missing parapet markers 4) Department of Transport should prepare guidance for highway authorities to spot hazards on railway bridges 5) SCC and Network Rail should review the best way to protect and mark the parapet ends on the Oxshott bridge.

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