Stranded passengers were left as sitting ducks on a partly derailed train for seven minutes before being hit by another intercity service after a ‘major’ flaw occurred in the signalling system, MailOnline can reveal.

Rail workers demanded to know how the second train wasn’t stopped by red signals before the carnage unfolded close to Salisbury station last night. 

A senior Network Rail engineer has exclusively told MailOnline that the signalling system should’ve made the train stop but that it suffered a catastrophic failure. 

The employee, who has worked for the rail operator for over 10 years, said he and other senior workers had feared a collision like the incident near Salisbury was going to happen ‘for the last two years’.

Last night a GWR train from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads hit an object as it came out of the tunnel and caused the rear carriage to derail.

But the engineer claimed that a major flaw in the signalling system meant a South Western Railway train coming from London Waterloo towards Honiton was not stopped from entering the site of the derailment.

Seventeen passengers were injured in the collision at around 7.20pm. The driver of the derailed GWR train had to be freed from his cabin before being taken to hospital.

The incident, one of the most serious in recent years, is set to be investigated by the Office for Rail and Road and the Rail Accident Investigations Branch. 

‘I’ve realised for a number of years there has been numerous failures within the company,’ said the Network Rail employee, who has asked to remain anonymous.

The whistle-blower, who has seen information about the crash, said the signalling system should have prevented the crash but shared fears that procedures in maintaining equipment had not been followed properly.

They said that when the GWR train collided with an object and derailed onto the opposite track, there should be an ‘automatic obstruction warning’ to stop any train entering that same mile-long stretch. 

‘The system says that the line is not safe for the passage of another train because there is an obstruction on the line,’ they said.

‘According to my system, the signalling system was aware seven minutes before impact. It should’ve automatically stopped the train. 

Two passenger trains have crashed and at least one has derailed following an incident near a rail junction in Wiltshire

Two passenger trains have crashed and at least one has derailed following an incident near a rail junction in Wiltshire

Two passenger trains have crashed and at least one has derailed following an incident near a rail junction in Wiltshire

Shocking images from inside the train tunnel show emergency workers attempting to access the derailed carriage

Shocking images from inside the train tunnel show emergency workers attempting to access the derailed carriage

Shocking images from inside the train tunnel show emergency workers attempting to access the derailed carriage

Emergency crews rushed to the scene at Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury following the collision at around 7.20pm this evening

Emergency crews rushed to the scene at Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury following the collision at around 7.20pm this evening

Emergency crews rushed to the scene at Fisherton Tunnel between Andover and Salisbury following the collision at around 7.20pm this evening

Two passenger trains have crashed on tracks near Salisbury, Wiltshire. It is believed a GWR service hit an object on the line and derailed, before a South Western train collided with the derailed carriage. There are reports of a dozen people being injured

Two passenger trains have crashed on tracks near Salisbury, Wiltshire. It is believed a GWR service hit an object on the line and derailed, before a South Western train collided with the derailed carriage. There are reports of a dozen people being injured

 Two passenger trains have crashed on tracks near Salisbury, Wiltshire. It is believed a GWR service hit an object on the line and derailed, before a South Western train collided with the derailed carriage. There are reports of a dozen people being injured

Around 50 firefighters as well as Wiltshire Police and ambulance are at the scene

Around 50 firefighters as well as Wiltshire Police and ambulance are at the scene

Around 50 firefighters as well as Wiltshire Police and ambulance are at the scene

‘It sounded like a bomb going off’ 

Witnesses described hearing a massive bang ‘like a bomb going off’ as two trains collided in the tunnel near Salisbury last night.

A local resident living near the tunnels said she was out with her children celebrating hallowe’en when they heard the noise of the train crash which she liked to thunder or a bomb going off..

Tamar Vellacott told reporters that she was out with her children and mother celebrating hallowe’en at the time of the crash.

‘It was a noise we’ve never heard before, my young ones started panicking thinking it was a bomb and we said maybe a lorry had crashed on the London Road and not to panic,’ said the 25-year-old.

‘There was no screeching like brakes, just a long rumbling sound like thunder. It did spook us though, so we decided to get in our car and drive home. Three police cars passed us at speed.’ 

Peter Golden, 52, from Laverstock, Wiltshire, said the collision ‘sounded like something big collapsing – the sound of things falling into each other’.

‘With the windy day we’ve had I first thought it was a big gust of wind that has knocked something heavy over.

‘It wasn’t till the helicopter arrived on station over the tunnel that I realised what I had heard.

‘The first helicopter arrived on station and started hovering about 30 to 40 mins after the collision. 

‘There were lots of sirens and emergency vehicles on London Road.

‘Emergency vehicles were coming from the west and east – presumably Andover – as well as Salisbury.’ 

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‘It should’ve automatically set all signals to red. If the driver didn’t see the signal, the system should’ve made the train stop.’

The engineer added that the incident could not have been avoided if the oncoming train was too close to the derailed GWR, but that this could not have been the case. 

‘There has been a major flaw within the signalling system within Network Rail.’ 

The engineer added they had seen ‘similar breaches in procedures’ elsewhere on the rail network, warning that it could lead to another incident. 

Numerous people were injured in the crash, but British Transport Police said they were ‘thankful’ no one had died.  

Locals who live around a mile away described hearing a massive bang ‘like a bomb going off’ as the trains collided.

Tamar Vellacott told reporters that she was walking with her young children, mother and partner on Jewell Close, Bishopdown, around half a mile from the scene.

‘It was a noise we’ve never heard before, my young ones started panicking thinking it was a bomb and we said maybe a lorry had crashed on the London Road and not to panic,’ said the 25-year-old.

‘There was no screeching like brakes, just a long rumbling sound like thunder. It did spook us though, so we decided to get in our car and drive home. Three police cars passed us at speed.’ 

Signalling for the area has been wiped out, with South Western Railway warning that all lines running through Salisbury and Andover are currently blocked while an investigation takes place.

Footage from the scene shows passengers walking along the tracks towards safety as emergency workers use flashlights to guide them through darkness.

At least two helicopters have landed at the scene, according to reports.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said investigations into the crash would be undertaken in order to help prevent similar ‘serious’ incidents in future.

‘My thoughts go out to those affected by the serious rail incident near Salisbury,’ Mr Shapps tweeted.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said investigations into the crash would be undertaken in order to help prevent similar 'serious' incidents in future

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said investigations into the crash would be undertaken in order to help prevent similar 'serious' incidents in future

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said investigations into the crash would be undertaken in order to help prevent similar ‘serious’ incidents in future

Locals who live around a mile away described hearing a massive bang 'like a bomb going off' as the trains collided

Locals who live around a mile away described hearing a massive bang 'like a bomb going off' as the trains collided

Locals who live around a mile away described hearing a massive bang ‘like a bomb going off’ as the trains collided

Signalling for the area has been wiped out, with South Western Railway warning that all lines running through Salisbury and Andover are currently blocked while an investigation takes place.

Signalling for the area has been wiped out, with South Western Railway warning that all lines running through Salisbury and Andover are currently blocked while an investigation takes place.

Signalling for the area has been wiped out, with South Western Railway warning that all lines running through Salisbury and Andover are currently blocked while an investigation takes place.

‘Emergency services on scene & we are working closely with @networkrail & operators. The @railgovuk & @railandroad will investigate. We need to understand how this happened to prevent in the future.’ 

A Network Rail spokesperson said: ‘At around 7pm this evening, the rear carriage of the 1708 Great Western Railway service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads derailed after striking an object on its approach to Salisbury station.

‘The derailment knocked out all of the signalling in the area. Subsequently, the 1720 South Western Railway service from London Waterloo to Honiton then collided with the Bristol train.

‘There are reports of injuries and the emergency services are on site along with railway first responders.’

The derailed GWR train tipped on to its side, but the South Western Railway train is upright but off the tracks, images from the scene showed.

A critical incident has been declared and the line will remain closed at the country end of Salisbury.

Firefighters and police officers are seen standing with South Western Railway staff on a bridge overlooking the section of railway where the derailment occurred

Firefighters and police officers are seen standing with South Western Railway staff on a bridge overlooking the section of railway where the derailment occurred

Firefighters and police officers are seen standing with South Western Railway staff on a bridge overlooking the section of railway where the derailment occurred

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch tonight said it had deployed inspectors to the site of a collision for a preliminary examination of the scene

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch tonight said it had deployed inspectors to the site of a collision for a preliminary examination of the scene

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch tonight said it had deployed inspectors to the site of a collision for a preliminary examination of the scene

An Office of Rail and Road spokesperson added: 'We’re supporting Network Rail and the train operators, plus RAIB and the British Transport Police, with respect to the collision between two trains near Salisbury Tunnel Junction and liaising with emergency services responding to the incident'

An Office of Rail and Road spokesperson added: 'We’re supporting Network Rail and the train operators, plus RAIB and the British Transport Police, with respect to the collision between two trains near Salisbury Tunnel Junction and liaising with emergency services responding to the incident'

An Office of Rail and Road spokesperson added: ‘We’re supporting Network Rail and the train operators, plus RAIB and the British Transport Police, with respect to the collision between two trains near Salisbury Tunnel Junction and liaising with emergency services responding to the incident’

British Transport Police said a casualty centre has been set up at St Mark’s Church, in St Mark’s Avenue in the city.

Disruption to services in the area was expected to last through to the end of the day.  

The British Transport Police have released a full statement and said officers will remain on scene throughout the night.

‘We were called to Fisherton Tunnel in Salisbury at 6.46pm tonight following reports of a train derailment which involved two passenger trains colliding.

‘Officers are continuing to respond to the incident alongside our emergency service colleagues and the line is expected to be shut for some time.

‘Thankfully there have been no fatalities however a number of people have been injured and a casualty centre has been opened at a nearby church.

‘Most of these people are walking wounded however a small number, including the driver, have been taken to hospital where their injuries are being assessed.

‘A major incident has been declared and this has been a large scale, multi-agency response working closely alongside our colleagues in Wiltshire.

‘We will remain on scene throughout the night working to establish the full circumstances of how this incident came to happen.’

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch tonight said it had deployed inspectors to the site of a collision for a preliminary examination of the scene. 

An Office of Rail and Road spokesperson added: ‘We’re supporting Network Rail and the train operators, plus RAIB and the British Transport Police, with respect to the collision between two trains near Salisbury Tunnel Junction and liaising with emergency services responding to the incident.’

MailOnline have approached British Transport Police and Network Rail for comment. 

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