Scottish Driver survives in astonishing escape
A late Christmas present for a Scottish train driver – although he may have thought otherwise at the time. On 27 December last year, a train hit a tree trunk, travelling at express speed (the train, not the tree). Quick thinking and steely nerves saved both the driver and his train in what could have been a catastrophic accident. Tree collision? Appropriately enough the Rail Accident Investigation Branch is looking into the matter.
The last named storm of 2023 could have proved final in more ways than one. Thanks to the quick thinking of the driver on a Glasgow bound train, disaster was averted. High winds from storm Gerrit had brought down a tree, moments before and Aberdeen to Glasgow express crashed headlong into it at over eighty miles per hour (over 130 kph). Astonishingly, the driver escaped with minor injuries, while bringing the train to an emergency stop. No passengers were injured.
Outright world speed record
The impact of climate change and storm systems has been debated at length on these pages. However, this real-life impact brought home the terrifying prospect of another catastrophe on the Aberdeen to Dundee line. Sad memories of the Carmont fatal accident, not far north of this location, serve as a reminder of the extent to which the British railway network remains vulnerable to extreme, but much more common, weather events.
According to the preliminary report by the RAIB, the train involved was a ScotRail express service, designated by the operator as an Inter7City service. The class is formed from heavily refurbished 1970s vintage High Speed Trains. They are also known by a previous branding as InterCity125. The diesel powered formation of twin power cars and coaches are capable of sustained 125mph (200kph) running. An example of the class holds the outright world speed record for diesel traction at over 143 mph (230 kph).
Formations are popular with passengers
The long serving HST units are not required to deliver that level of performance in the service of ScotRail. They do however provide better acceleration characteristics, well suited to the stopping patterns of many Scottish services. The “locomotive – coaches – locomotive” formations are popular with passengers, otherwise used to travelling long distances in units powered by underfloor engines. The bulk of a power car, in front of the passenger accommodation, may well have contributed to the safe, if somewhat dramatic course of events here.
“On the day of the accident, Storm Gerrit had brought heavy rain and strong winds across Scotland and other parts of the UK”, said a statement from the RAIB. “The driver received minor injuries as a result of the accident and the driving cab of the train was heavily damaged, disabling the train and requiring its passengers to be evacuated. Our investigation will seek to identify the sequence of events that led to the accident.” The driver was not named in the preliminary report.