Huge rocks lay on track says train driver

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The Independent Online

The driver of a train which was left "precariously balanced" over a 50ft embankment when it derailed and caught fire, today described seeing "two huge rocks" on the track before the accident.

Willie Dickson also said he held the hands of frightened passengers as he led them to safety after the derailment.



Eight people were injured in the accident near Cruachan Power Station, by Loch Awe in Argyll, shortly before 9pm last night.



Some passengers said they saw "balls of flame" inside one of the train carriages.



Emergency services said all 60 passengers on the 6.20pm Glasgow to Oban train were rescued.



Eight people were taken to hospital but none of their injuries are said to be life-threatening.



It is likely that a landslide had thrown several boulders on to the train track, police said.



Mr Dickson said he saw "two huge rocks on the track" just moments before the train derailed.



The 60-year-old driver, who has worked on the railways for 30 years, said: "I stayed at the controls until the train came to rest. I then entered the front carriage and tried to calm passengers down before taking people by the hand and leading them off the train.



"It was a real team effort after the train came to a halt. My colleagues were brilliant, as were some passengers who helped others on board."



A member of the train's catering staff, Drew Hinde, 38, from Glasgow, said he used his catering trolley to steady himself during the impact, describing the derailment as "surreal".



Conductor Angus MacColl, 54, from Oban, said he was in the back carriage when the train stopped.



"I shouted: Calm down, calm down. And it worked," he said.



"I got people out the back before going into the front carriage where passengers were also being taken off the train.



"Willie and Drew were brilliant, as were passengers who helped out."



Steve Montgomery, ScotRail's managing director said: "This incident could have been more serious but for (the staff's) actions. They did a tremendous job in difficult circumstances and are a credit to the company.



"I would also like to thank our customers for their support and efforts in ensuring that everyone disembarked safely."



Earlier Paul Gibson, a passenger, told the BBC "bags and shelves seemed to sort of start flying across the carriage".



He added: "Then all of a sudden on either side of us, on the outside, big balls of flame managed to come across us."



Investigators from ScotRail, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and other agencies are trying to understand the cause of the landslide and what caused the train to derail.



A British Transport Police spokesman said: "At this stage there is nothing to suggest any criminality. There are a few big boulders lying about on the railway line.



"Early indications are it's probably been a landslide but investigations are under way.



"There are a number of officers on scene from British Transport Police and Strathclyde Police."



A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: "While this is a serious incident thankfully no one was badly injured."



Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson had been in touch with Network Rail, she said.



"We can assure the public that our officials at Transport Scotland are working closely with them, the British Transport Police and other relevant agencies to reopen the line and the A85 trunk road as soon as it is safe to do so."



A temporary timetable is in place until the train is moved, and a replacement bus service is running between Oban and Glasgow.



Passengers have been advised that journey times will be extended and should allow extra time for any connections.

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