TWO rail workers attempting to move a tree away from the tracks avoided being hit by a train travelling at 95mph by two seconds in Somerset earlier this year.

The incident took place at around 1:10pm on Friday, January 14 at Uphill Junction, around two miles south-east of Weston-super-Mare.

The track workers were attempting to move an ash tree they had felled into a safe area when the incident took place. 

A report from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said the workers “moved to the cess and clear of the line approximately two seconds before the arrival of the train, which then struck the tree”.

The train was the 9:25 CrossCountry service from Penzance to Newcastle, which had departed Taunton Station at 12:54pm (around 16 minutes before the incident).

The RAIB report said: “The track workers, who were undertaking de-vegetation work, had previously felled the tree on the slope of the cutting next to the railway, before it unexpectedly dropped into the cess.

“They immediately followed the tree down the slope and into the cess with the intention of moving it to a safe area away from the line.

“Once they reached the cess, they were in a position close to the adjacent open line without any protection from moving trains in place.

“While attempting to position the tree to allow for easier removal, they entered the space between the rails (an area known as the four-foot) and pulled the tree across the open line.”

Somerset County Gazette: A site plan showing the workers' intent to rotate the tree before moving it to a safe area. Picture: RAIB, Google MapsA site plan showing the workers' intent to rotate the tree before moving it to a safe area. Picture: RAIB, Google Maps

The report said the driver sounded the train’s horn around 10 seconds before it reached the track workers “with the expectation that they would move to a position of safety”.

It added: “The track workers, however, did not acknowledge the warning, or move off the line, so the driver sounded the horn for a second time and applied the train’s brakes. 

“The track workers became aware of the presence of the train after warnings being shouted by the controller of site safety (COSS), who stated that he had been attempting to call the signaller when the train approached.

“Although the track workers were close to the tree at the time of collision, nobody was injured.”

After stopping the train, the driver contacted the signaller to report the incident.

He also found the train had sustained minor damage but was able to continue to Bristol Temple Meads, its next planned stopping point.

The report found that the company instructions provided by QTS Group, the principal contractor, were “inconsistent on whether securing rope should be used to control the fall of vegetation”.

The four workers in the team undertaking the work “agreed that the tree was not secured with a rope as it was felled”.

QTS said its documents allow for decisions to be made on-site based on the size of the tree being felled.

You can read the full RAIB report into the incident HERE.