Rail line between Norwich and Ely re-opens following serious crash near Thetford when train crashed into a tractor
PUBLISHED: 11:12 11 April 2016 | UPDATED: 11:12 11 April 2016
The railway line between Norwich and Ely reopened this morning after a serious crash near Thetford yesterday.
Investigators are still working today to find out the cause of a train crash which left seven people injured, one of them seriously, and caused hours of delays on the region’s railways.
The 12.03pm service from Norwich to Cambridge, carrying 135 passengers, was travelling through an unmanned crossing in Roudham, near Thetford, at around 12.30pm yesterday when it collided with a tractor.
More than 50 firefighters and eight fire appliances attended with four ambulances and three ambulance officers, the East Anglian Air Ambulance, Norfolk Police and British Transport Police (BTP).
The 31-year-old tractor driver suffered serious injuries and was taken to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital by air ambulance.
Six others, including the train driver, suffered minor injuries. Four were taken to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and two to West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds by land ambulance, a spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said.
One of the train’s passengers described the impact as “huge”.
“We were travelling along and all of a sudden heard this almighty bang and the train started shuddering as if it was about to derail. There was glass everywhere and suitcases flying,” he said.
Another passenger at the scene said: “There was a moment when we didn’t know whether we were going to live or die.”
Emergency services remained on the scene through the afternoon. BTP and Network Rail officers were on site later into the evening, investigating the crash site and facilitating the removal of the train.
Hall Road, where the level crossing is, was closed to motorists and there were delays on trains between Norwich and Cambridge through the day, with replacement buses taking passengers travelling between Ely to Norwich.
Sergeant Paul Thompson, officer in charge of the BTP in Norwich, said the train would have been travelling at line speed – around 70mph – when it struck the tractor at the Hockham Road level crossing, around three miles east of Thetford.
He said the crossing, primarily used by farm vehicles, is an unmanned user works crossing, meaning the train driver would have been required to alert the signaller before passing through.
“Obviously, something has gone wrong and the train and tractor have then collided,” he added.
The train driver reported to the BTP that the tractor was coming from his left and was moving over the crossing when the two collided. He said he had sounded the horn to alert passengers before the impact.
Sgt Thompson said the BTP will be working with the Rail Investigation Branch (RAIB) to ascertain the cause of the crash.
Pc Tony Orton, of the BTP, said there was “no indication” that there were any faults with the train or the rails, but the line would remain closed while investigations into the integrity of the rails took place.
Pc Orton said it was “remarkable” how few passengers had been hurt, adding: “If we’d had a derailment, it could have led to more serious injuries.”
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said she was “very concerned” about the incident.
“My sympathy is with those hurt. The emergency service response has been excellent,” she said.