Milestones and Train Crashes

This week I was down with my usual seasonal sinusitis so have been somewhat in the doldrums with a foggy brain and a tight chest. My first thought was “Covid” and  I contacted work and was advised to get my hands on a “Rapid Lateral Flow” (LFD) test before returning to work or anything similar. The tests are available from local pharmacies but the clincher is that you first need to obtain a “collect code” which I did not know before I arrived at the pharmacy.  LFD testing uses nasal and/or throat swab samples to detect a protein (antigen) produced by the virus at its most infectious stage.

Of course the last thing on my mind while battling over the phone to get the code was how many people have died or have been infected since March 2020 as I have not been watching the numbers much recently.  We passed the 4,5 million death milestone in May of this year and have now passed the 5 million mark. 

First: the numbers.

Both South Africa and the UK have slipped in the rankings since May and the rise in numbers for the UK is partly the result of a slip-up with one of the testing labs.  Fortunately the LFT does not need a lab but you really have to fiddle with a swab and a tube and a cassette within a 30 minute time frame.  I was fortunate that the test was negative.  

While I was fiddling investigators were probing the collision of two trains in the Fisherton Tunnel just before Salisbury Station.  I recall going through the tunnel on a number of occasions as I traveled to and from Salisbury back in 2014.  Salisbury Station was also the site if a very bad train accident in 1906 but when I lived in the town there was nothing to see that commemorates the accident on the station. 

The Fisherton Tunnel entrance. The left line is the Portsmouth branch and the right carries traffic to and from Andover, Basingstoke and London.

The accident occurred at 18:46 GMT on 31 October 2021, when the 17:08 GWR service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads was approaching Salisbury station and stopped (or was derailed) inside the tunnel. 7 Minutes later the 17:20 South Western Railway (SWR) service from London Waterloo to Honiton, which was also heading to Salisbury, ran into its rear at the eastern end of Fisherton Tunnel and was derailed. The biggest question being asked is why the signalling system failed to stop the oncoming train and why the 17.08 train had stopped in the first place. No lives were lost in the accident but the driver of  the one train suffered “life changing injuries”.  

*Update* A preliminary inquiry has focused on “wheel adhesion” when the SWR train was braking. It also appears as if the GWR train may not have derailed in the tunnel. However I am still puzzled by why the trains which were supposedly 7 minutes apart came to grief in the first place. The focus has shifted to the SWR train with no information about the GWR train.  Either one was late or the other was early. 

Both trains were British Rail Sprinters and I used to use the GWR Portsmouth/Bristol  service on my commute from to and from Southampton. 

The Fisherton Tunnel dates back to  1857 and is a bottleneck on that line. Estimates are that the tunnel will be back in operation by the 5th of November so there is major pain in store for passengers that use or pass through Salisbury this week.   Could this be a case of the wrong type of leaves on the line? 

DRW © 2021-2022. Created 02/11/2021


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