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Railtrack 'did not inform' Virginia Water train of danger before crash

TRAIN OPERATOR South West Trains has accused Railtrack of failing to tell it about the dangers of travelling at speed along a section of track where a train derailed last week.

SWT said it was not told that a Railtrack contractor had failed to treat track against slippage caused by leaves on the line, the night before the accident.

The accident happened last Thursday morning when the 08.21 Weybridge to Staines train derailed at Virginia Water on a stretch of track prone to wheel skidding caused by leaves.

The train had passed a signal at danger before coming off the track on a set of points set against it. Investigators are trying to establish whether it failed to stop because it had skidded on leaves.

No-one was injured although the estimated 200 passengers were badly shaken. A collision with another train was narrowly avoided when signals and points were switched just before the derailment.

There were no speed restrictions or notices warning drivers of the state of the track before the derailment.

Contractor Amec Rail failed to treat the track with sandite - a lead-sand mix used to 'grit' tracks and improve adhesion.

This was because the special rail vehicle used for the job had developed an electrical fault.

A spokeswoman said it had informed Railtrack of the electrical problem in advance. Amec Rail is contracted to treat tracks in Railtrack's Southern Zone to combat slipping.

SWT said the Weybridge to Staines train was being driven by a trainee under the supervision of an experienced driver.

The driver alerted the signalman that his train was unable to stop.

The signalman alerted an oncoming Reading to Waterloo train and switched the points and signal against the Weighbridge to Staines train. This derailed on the points after passing through the red signal.

A spokeswoman for the Railway Inspectorate said that its investigators were examining the track's adhesion properties, but would also be examining the 'processes' followed by the signalman and why the driver passed a signal at red before running into points set against his train.

Railtrack said it was investigating events surrounding the accident.

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