Lowestoft-bound train hit sleeper lying on track at Somerleyton

Old sleepers at Somerleyton Image copyright RAIB
Image caption An old sleeper fell on to the track near Somerleyton

An empty train crashed into a sleeper left on the track by staff who broke safety guidelines, a report has found.

The train hit one of three wooden sleepers that fell on the track from a trailer, near Somerleyton in Suffolk.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said the crash happened on 18 June after Network Rail staff removed old sleepers and rails overnight.

Network Rail said safety rules about observation of loads were reissued to staff immediately after the crash.

A maintenance team spent the early hours of the day removing old wooden sleepers from the track between Somerleyton and Oulton Broad North station.

The report said guidelines had been flouted and no-one was given the job of ensuring "nothing fell off" the trailers.

'Wedged under the front'

The report said: "The authorised work plan calls for a person to be appointed to monitor the load on each trailer."

The passenger train from Norwich to Lowestoft was travelling at about 35mph (56km/h) when it hit the sleeper, just after 05:08 BST.

The driver stopped the train before getting out to inspect what it had hit.

The RAIB said he was accompanied by a second driver and they found a wooden sleeper "wedged under the front" of the train, as well as two further sleepers nearby, which they removed.

After deciding the train was fit to move, the driver continued his journey to Lowestoft at a reduced speed.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: "The safety of our network is of the utmost importance to us and we will take any steps necessary to prevent a recurrence of this incident.

"We will be studying the recommendations of the report in detail."

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