Collision near Thetford

Rail Accident Investigation Branch

April 22
09:59 2016

At 12:30 on Sunday 11 April 2016 a train travelling from Norwich to Cambridge collided with an agricultural tractor and trailer at Hockham Road level crossing. The tractor driver was seriously injured, and the train driver and several passengers received minor injuries. The tractor was destroyed, and the train was badly damaged.

Hockham Road level crossing is on a private road near Thetford, Norfolk, and also carries a public footpath. Vehicle users must open and close the crossing gates themselves, and at the time of the accident they had to use the telephone to obtain permission from a signaller at Cambridge, before going over the crossing. In 2012, the crossing had been provided with red and green lights which informed users whether it was safe to cross, but this equipment had been intentionally decommissioned at the time of the accident.

The tractor driver was given permission to cross the line, and had reached the mid-point of the crossing when his vehicle was struck by train 1K77, the 12:03 Norwich to Cambridge service, which was travelling at 84 mph (135 km/h). There were 135 passengers and two crew on the train, which did not derail and came to a stop 410 metres beyond the crossing.

Image showing the trailer and tractor debris following the collision
Image showing the trailer and tractor debris following the collision

The trailer separated from the tractor and struck the side of the train several times, breaking windows and puncturing the outer body of the train, before coming to rest next to the tractor at the side of the railway line. The driving cab of the train was severely deformed by the impact, and the drivers door broke away.

Our investigation will identify the sequence of events that led to the accident. It will also consider:

  • any factors which may have influenced the actions of the people involved
  • the method of authorising vehicles to use the crossing
  • the history of the crossing equipment
  • the performance of the train during the collision
  • any underlying management factors.

Our investigation is independent of any investigation by the railway industry, the Office of Road and Rail, and the British Transport Police.

We will publish our findings, including any safety recommendations, at the conclusion of our investigation; these will be available on our RAIB website.

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