The nail-biting footage shows the moment a 40mph train narrowly avoids ploughing into two cars at a level crossing by half a second – after leaves on the line caused the barriers to lift too soon.
Two cars can be seen driving across the Norwich Road level crossing, near New Rackheath, Norfolk as the a train approaches.
The quick-thinking train driver slammed on the emergency brake as he saw the cars – but only managed to avoid colliding with the rear end of the second car by less than half a second.
The train that was heading from Norwich to Sheringham, avoided the collision before 8pm on November 24, 2019.
An investigation by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) found that heavy leaf-fall on the line had confused the level crossing equipment, triggering the signal.
And the RAIB has now made three recommendations to Network Rail, which owns the line, regarding the planning of autumn railhead treatment, guidance on the introduction of new trains, and the configuration control of signalling equipment.
The two cars missed being pummelled by the oncoming train by half a second
The RAIB also praised the driver of the train – a trainee driver being supervised by an experienced driving instructor – for managing to avoid a ‘serious accident’.
The report reads: ‘The way in which the train was driven was not causal to the accident.
‘The train was driven by a trainee driver who had been employed by Greater Anglia since February 2019.
‘The driver was being supervised by a driver instructor who had been a Greater Anglia driver since 2006.
‘RAIB recognises that, by realising what was happening and rapidly applying the emergency brake, the train crew may have avoided a serious accident.
‘The incident occurred around three hours after dusk, when the weather was dry and the air temperature was around 10°C.
The cars can be seen driving across the Norwich Road level crossing as the a train approaches
‘There had been fog and haze earlier in the day, and some light rain the previous day.
‘The weather in the 48 hours prior to the incident may have been a factor in the incident.’
The report then goes on to detail three recommendations addressed to Network Rail, as well as two learning points from the incident.
The first recommendation is that Network Rail should review and update its processes regarding autumn railhead treatment.
Teams responsible for this should be made aware of, and take account of, changes in rolling stock which have happened, or could happen, since the start of the previous autumn, which may affect the wheel-rail interface.
The second recommendation is that Network Rail should provide additional guidance regarding the technical compatibility between vehicles and infrastructure.
Thanks to the quick-thinking train driver, the train avoided the collision by half a second
This should include making sure wheel-rail interface characteristics are compliant with relevant standards.
And the third recommendation is that Network Rail should review and enhance its processes for managing the configuration of signalling equipment.
The two learning points are that Network Rail staff who believe or suspect that railhead contamination has caused a signalling or level crossing failure should always take and preserve contamination samples for analysis.
And the second is that this incident highlighted the need for signalling designers and approvers to identify any variations from standards and typical designs.
Simon French, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents, said: ‘All too often the interaction between road users and the railway at level crossings leads to incidents and accidents.
‘In many cases the actions of the road user are the immediate cause.
Leaf-fall on the line had confused the level crossing equipment, causing the barriers to open early
‘But in this alarming event, deficiencies in the way the railway equipment operated placed two car drivers, and the people on a passenger train, in deadly danger through no fault of their own.
‘Our investigation found that the installation at Norwich Road level crossing was a poor piece of engineering which had been in use for several years, and only luck had previously prevented an accident.
‘A change in the type of train using the line exposed a weakness in the way that the crossing’s electronic control equipment was configured.
‘This meant that the system lost sight of the approaching train and commanded the barriers to rise.
‘Lessons from the trial of the crossing equipment in other locations, and from incidents involving the same equipment in service, had not been applied to the crossing at Norwich Road.
‘It is important that the railway industry learns from this incident, and makes sure that it has effective processes in place to transfer such learning to where it is needed.’