A train driver involved in a crash which left 14 people injured did not brake early enough before a red signal, a report has found.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) also said Network Rail had not “effectively managed the risks” of leaves on the line before the two passenger trains crashed in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
One member of staff and 13 passengers needed hospital treatment after a South Western Railway and a Great Western Railway service, which were both travelling the same way, crashed into each other at Salisbury Tunnel Junction on 31 October 2021.
One of the trains was almost in a “potentially far more serious collision” with a train travelling in the opposite direction, the report adds. This was avoided by “less than a minute”.
The line between Salisbury and Andover was closed for 16 days following the collision, as more than 900 metres of new track and 1,5000 sleepers were installed.
The RAIB’s report, published on Tuesday, found the South Western Railway driver “did not apply the train’s brakes sufficiently early on approach to the signal protecting the junction to avoid running on to it”.
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, the RAIB said it believed the South Western train had gone past a red signal at the junction when its wheels slipped on the rails.
Its report concluded that the wheels slipped due to wet weather and leaves on the track – which had not been “effectively managed” with “either proactive or reactive measures” by National Rail.
Another possible underlying factor was South Western’s failure to effectively prepare its drivers for assessing and reporting low adhesion, the report added.
A total of 10 recommendations have been made by the RAIB, including seven directed at Network Rail.
Andrew Hall, chief inspector of rail accidents at RAIB, said: “This was a very serious accident and the first time since our inception in 2005 that RAIB has investigated the collision of two passenger trains travelling at significant speed.
“The phrase ‘leaves on the line’ may cause some to smile. But the risks associated with leaves being crushed on to the top of rails by the pressure of trains’ wheels, resulting in a slippery layer, is very real and long known.
“As with many accidents, this one resulted from a combination of many different circumstances coming together, both in the time before the accident and on the day.
“As a result, the barriers put in place to avoid this type of event did not work effectively.”