THREE people have died, including a train driver and a conductor, after a passenger service derailed in Aberdeenshire amid heavy rain and flooding.

The third victim was on Wednesday night confirmed to be a passenger. Around 30 emergency service vehicles, including an air ambulance, were called to the scene of the major incident near Stonehaven where the ScotRail train crashed at 9.40am on Wednesday morning.

Rail industry sources said the suspected cause of the incident was a landslip. The train had reportedly turned back after encountering a landslide but then hit another one.

Six people were taken to hospital with “not serious” injuries. Network Rail was warned about the rail network’s resilience to severe weather just four weeks before the derailment in a report which noted a spike in landslips, demonstrating the “vulnerability” of the railways.

Boris Johnson said the fatal train derailment should “never happen again” and called for a probe into the impact of “substantial rainfall on vulnerable infrastructure”.

The Prime Minister said: “One of the reasons that this accident is so shocking is of course that this type of accident on our railways is thankfully so rare.

“But our thoughts are very much with those who’ve lost their lives, their families and of course those who’ve been injured in the derailment. As I understand there was about a month’s worth of rainfall in a very short period which undoubtedly aggravated the problem there.

“But I think what we’ll have to do is wait and see what the British Transport Police come up with, what exactly they identify as the cause of this derailment and working with Network Rail, with everybody, make sure that nothing like this happens again.”

British Transport Police (BTP) said it was called to the line at 9:43am following a report that a train travelling from Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street had derailed.

A spokesperson said: “Very sadly despite the best efforts of paramedics, we can confirm that three people have been pronounced dead at the scene.

“While formal identification is yet to take place, the driver of the train is very sadly believed to have died. His family have been informed and are being supported by specially trained family liaison officers.

“Officers are continuing to work to inform the families of the other two people who sadly died.

“Six people have been taken to hospital to be treated for injuries, which thankfully are not believed to be serious.”

Twelve people were said to have been on the train, six passengers and six staff. Unions called the crash a tragedy as a major incident was declared at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Chief Superintendent Eddie Wylie said: “This is a tragic incident and first and foremost our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have very sadly died this morning.

“We remain on scene alongside our emergency service colleagues, and a major incident operation has been under way.

“I would like to reassure the public that this was not a busy service, and from CCTV enquiries and witness statements we believe all passengers have been accounted for. However, once the area has been made safe then a full and thorough search will be conducted, which is likely to take some time."

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) union said four carriages had derailed.

The train involved was the 06.38 Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street, made up of two locomotives and four carriages.

It is understood the locomotive and carriages derailed and slid down an embankment.

Pictures posted from the scene showed at least six ambulance vehicles, two air ambulances and a number of police response cars at the scene. Smoke could be seen billowing in the background.

One of the carriages was reportedly submerged.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “an extremely serious incident”.

She added: “My deepest condolences are with the loved ones of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Today’s events are heartbreaking and hard to bear.

“Only one conclusion can be drawn from the early reports and images we have seen – this is nothing short of a disaster.”

Network Rail was warned four weeks ago in an annual health and safety report by rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said there were six times more flooding events on Britain’s railways in 2019-20 than during the previous 12 months.

It also noted a spike in landslips, demonstrating the “vulnerability” of the network.

The ORR found Network Rail’s plans to address climate change and extreme weather are “not keeping up with the frequency and severity of these events”.

Speaking when the report was published last month, HM chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser said: “The last year saw significant increases in flooding, earthwork failures and trains striking trees on the line, which had a big impact on the number of delays on the network.

“It is so important that the sector employs best practice if we are to meet all the pressures on the network in the future and to make sure the railway plays its full role on climate change and reducing carbon emissions.”

In its response, Network Rail said the railway was originally designed for a temperate climate and is “challenged” by prolonged periods of high and low temperatures, storms and floods.

It added: “Our climate is changing and we’re seeing more and more of these types of incidents.

“We are acutely aware they must be addressed and we have drawn up comprehensive plans to do so.

“There is no quick fix but we will continue to review the way the railway operates in extreme weather and build resilience into all of our plans.”

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines is cutting short a family holiday in Italy was due to fly back to the UK last night and will visit the crash site today.

Philip Sherratt, editor of magazine Modern Railways, said: “It looks like the key cause of this accident is likely to have been some kind of landslip or earthworks failure, which is probably going to be attributable to the severe weather, and that’s obviously something that the railways are going to have to deal with.

“During the storms back in February and March, particularly in the South East of England, there were several quite severe landslips and you had routes closed for a matter of weeks requiring repair.

“If you look back 10 years that’s not something that we really saw very much so I think there has definitely been a noticeable change in the frequency of these kinds of incidents and some are easier to deal with than others.

“When you look back at something like the Dawlish incident in 2014 when the sea wall caved in and they rebuilt the whole thing and got the railway back up and open again, Network Rail’s response to that sort of thing is usually very good. But yes we are seeing a lot more of it.”

Train operator ScotRail posted a message on Twitter shortly after 6.30am warning that services across Scotland would be disrupted due to “extremely heavy rain flooding”.

A video shared on Facebook at 7.30am showed heavy flooding in Stonehaven. Mick Lynch, the assistant general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said they were “liaising directly at senior level with both Scotrail and Network Rail”.

“Our priority at this time is to support our members, their colleagues and their families and to do all that we can to assist the rescue operation which RMT members are currently involved in,” he said.

“The facts behind this incident will need to be established in due course but at this stage we are focused on support and assistance and our thoughts are with all those impacted by this tragedy.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC: “There has been some very extreme weather and concerns about landslips.

“We know that derailments, thankfully – and certainly lives lost – are very rare. You have to go back to 2007 to see the last life lost in this way.”

The ORR sent an inspector to the Stonehaven accident site. Local MP Andrew Bowie said: “Obviously none of us expected there to be such a serious incident as a rail derailment at the same time, but it just goes to show how damaging the bad weather can be. I don’t think speculation is helpful at this stage. We obviously don’t know why the derailment took place, but obviously we have suffered terrible weather here.”