An ‘insufficient’ response to a cow being on a railway line was partly to blame for the derailment of a passenger train in Kent last year.
The absence of a 'cowcatcher' at the front of the train also made the accident more likely.
The findings come in the report of an investigation by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) into the incident last July.
According to the RAIB, the train derailed after hitting eight cows that had gained access to the railway at Godmersham in Kent.
Although there had been a report of a cow on the railway an hour earlier, an ‘examination’ by the driver of the next passing train did not find anything.
A fence had not been maintained so as to keep cows off the line
There were no further reports from other trains that passed before the accident, in which the derailed train was travelling at 69 mph at the point of impact.
There were 67 passengers on board, plus three members of staff, but no injuries were reported at the time of the accident.
The RAIB said the accident occurred because a fence had not been maintained so as to restrain cows from breaching it, and because the railway’s response to the earlier report of a cow on the railway side of the fence was insufficient to prevent the accident.
It added that ‘the absence of an obstacle deflector on the leading unit of the train made the derailment more likely’.
The report also said that because the derailed train’s radio had ceased to work during the accident, its driver ran for about three-quarters of a mile towards an oncoming train, which had already been stopped by the signaller, and used that train’s radio to report the accident.
The RAIB made five recommendations including two relating to the fitting of obstacle deflectors to rolling stock, as well as recommendations on the fence inspection process; clarification of railway rules in response to reports of large animals within the boundary fence; and the reliability of train radio equipment.
It also identified two ‘learning points for the railway industry’, relating to the railway’s response to emergency situations, including ‘the response to reports of large animals within the boundary fence’ and the actions to take following an accident.