Empty ‘nuclear train’ crashes into car at Silverdale level crossing

The level crossing at Silverdale.
The level crossing at Silverdale.
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Two drivers had a lucky escape after a train hit a car on a level crossing at Silverdale, dragging it 300 metres down the track.

Investigators said that the driver of the silver Fiesta, a 46-year-old man from the Kendal area, managed to flee the vehicle before the train slammed into it on Tuesday night.

British Transport Police said initial information from North West Ambulance Service that two passengers also escaped the car before impact were incorrect and the driver was the only person travelling in the vehicle.

The incident happened at around 7.05pm at the New Road level crossing, sparking a major response from the emergency services.

The driver of the train, thought to be carrying empty nuclear flasks from the Sellafield power plant in West Cumbria to Crewe in Cheshire, was also uninjured but treated for shock at the scene, just south of Silverdale railway station.

It is thought the car driver lost control of his vehicle on the bend which approaches the crossing and landed on the track before fleeing moments before the crash.

The crossing has warning lights and barriers covering half of the road either side of the junction.

A British Transport Police (BTP) spokesman said: “BTP officers attended the incident, which was reported at 7.05pm, alongside colleagues from Lancashire Police and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

“The driver of the vehicle, a 46-year-old man from near Kendal, was not in the car at the time of the collision, and there were no other reported injuries.

“The train, which was travelling between Sellafield and Crewe, remained upright and on the tracks during the incident and the car, a silver Fiesta, was removed from the tracks at 12.50am.

“Officers will now be working to establish how the car came to be on the tracks.

“The Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the Office of Rail Regulation have been informed.”

Lancashire Fire Service, which sent 35 personnel to the site, said the train pushed the car 300 metres down the Furness Line track before coming to a halt.

Part of the car became lodged under the train and specialist equipment was used to free it.

Residents of nearby Warton and Carnforth reported hearing a rush of sirens and seeing a large-scale emergency response to the incident.

Urban Search and Rescue, a division of Lancashire Fire Service which deals with structural and transport incidents, was brought in from Chorley to help clear the track.

The crew had to transport their specialist equipment around half a mile down the line using a high-tech trolley, which is based at Preston.

British Transport Police (BTP) said the train remained upright after the crash.

The dual-track line, which runs between Barrow and Lancaster, was shut as far as Carnforth after the crash and replacement buses brought in to take rail passengers between stations.

Road diversions were put in place to keep drivers away from the scene.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “At approximately 7pm on 15 January a train struck an empty vehicle at Silverdale level crossing between Barrow-in-Furness and Carnforth.

“The train did not derail and there was no significant damage to the railway infrastructure.

“No allegations have been made regarding the safe working of the level crossing.

“Network Rail staff assisted the emergency services and the line reopened in the early hours of Wednesday morning.”