A report released on Monday revealed that a ScotRail driver was injured after the train he drove collided with fallen branches, despite the trees on the land owned by the Scottish Government being identified as ‘high risk’ eight months prior to the accident.

On May 21, 2021 a ScotRail service from Perth to Dundee, struck a fallen tree while travelling at 63 mph, resulting in the driver being taken to hospital by ambulance with head and arm injuries.

The accident occurred near the village of Glencarse, at around 4:47pm less than 10 minutes after the journey began.

After seeing the tree across the track, the driver applied the emergency brake, but struck it seven seconds later.

The report said that the tree penetrated the driving cab of the class 158 unit which formed the train.

The conductor and 28 passengers on board the train were unhurt, and the driver’s window and the interior of the cab were damaged, and the outer skin of two of the side windows of the train was broken.

A Network Rail inspection concluded that it was unable to find a responsible party for managing the area of land to make the trees safe.

HeraldScotland:

The vegetation along the section of line which included the location of the accident was last inspected on foot by Network Rail staff on 3 September 2020, and identified that there were various lineside trees on that section which presented a high risk to the railway, such that the owners should be notified of the inspection findings and the area re-inspected within one year. 

The tree stood on a narrow strip of land between the railway and a slip road, which forms part of a junction between the A90 Perth-Aberdeen dual carriageway and local roads. 

It was likely that the trees between the slip road and the railway were planted to reduce the level of noise to nearby houses from vehicles on the new road.

However, in Network Rail’s attempts to establish if a contractor was responsible for managing that area of land, which is owned by Scottish Ministers, it was not able to do so and no action to make the trees safe was taken before the accident occurred in May 2021. 

Transport Scotland has stated that the land from which the tree fell is outside the boundary of the trunk road network that it manages, and it has been unable to identify anyone who is responsible for managing the land.

The Department for Transport’s rail accident investigation branch (RAIB) report said that the base of the tree which fell was hidden from anyone on the railway side of the boundary fence by undergrowth and that it would have been ‘very difficult’ for Network Rail staff to detect that it was at risk of falling and it was ‘not clear’ from the Network Rail inspection if that particular tree was identified.

Following the accident, Transport Scotland has instructed the company which operates the trunk road network on its behalf to inspect the area and do what is necessary to make the land safe, including the removal of any further trees that may be an issue.