Three people have died after a ScotRail passenger service derailed and crashed down an embankment near Aberdeen in an area hit by major flooding today.
Dramatic photographs showed the scale of devastation with a further six people taken to hospital after the train came off the tracks at 9.40am at Carmont, near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. At least 30 emergency vehicles and an air ambulance were sent to the scene.
A train driver, conductor and a passenger lost their lives following the incident.
The Class 43 Inter7City train is said to have had six crew members and six passengers on board what was the 6.38am departure from Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street, which called at Stonehaven at 6.53am.
The train is believed to have stopped south of Carmont having seen a landslip. It is then believed to have returned north, initially on the southbound line, before crossing over to the northbound line at Carmont - and then hit a second landslip and derailed.
It comes after severe flooding in the area overnight which led to flash flooding in Aberdeen and widespread disruption across ScotRail following thunderstorms.
The Scottish Government had reinstated local lockdown restrictions in Aberdeen a week ago after a spike in coronavirus cases, meaning the number travelling was significantly lower than normal, it is understood.
Rail industry sources said the train stopped due to a landslip and moved back along the line when it crashed into another landslip.
The train was made up of a locomotive and four carriages. It is thought the locomotive and three carriages derailed, and slid down the embankment. The Aslef train drivers' union saying it then caught fire.
The Queen has sent a message of condolence following the rail crash in Stonehaven, saying 'it was with great sadness that I heard of the train derailment' and that the entire Royal Family 'join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who have died and those who have been injured'.
A Sepa spokeswoman said that between the hours of 6 and 10am today, 79mm of rain was recorded at the Sepa rain gauge at Dunnotter (Stonehaven).
British Transport Police (BTP) said those pronounced dead at the scene near Stonehaven include the train's driver, and the RMT union confirmed that one of those who lost their life in the incident was the train conductor.
Network Rail tweeted a video filmed in the same area minutes after the incident at 9.49am, showing flooding on the line and saying that trains could not run.
Dramatic video footage showed smoke billowing from the area today with at least seven ambulances on the scene alongside police cars and fire engines.
Based on the smoke rising from the scene, the train appears to have derailed near to a bend in the tracks close to Carmont. The portion of railway has rivers running alongside and under it in some areas.
Emergency services are using a field just north-west of the tracks to base their response. The tracks are flanked by thick vegetation, with woodland to the south-east.
Meanwhile it has emerged Network Rail was warned about the network's resilience to severe weather just four weeks before the derailment, in an annual health and safety report by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
The report 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.
Following today's news, Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines is cutting short a family holiday in Italy and will fly back to the UK tonight. He will visit the crash site tomorrow. It comes as:
* Unions called this morning's accident a 'tragedy' and RMT officials confirmed it was now a 'rescue operation';
* Today marks the first time a train driver has been killed in a crash on UK railways since November 2004;
* Nearby hospital Aberdeen Royal Infirmary announced a major incident after reports of 'serious injuries';
* Local MP Andrew Bowie said the flooding situation had been 'really bad' in the area before the crash;
* The NHS set up a 'welcome centre' at Midstocket Church in Aberdeen for those impacted by what happened;
* Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he was still waiting for a clearer picture of the 'very tragic' incident.
Mick Lynch, RMT assistant general secretary, said: 'The confirmation that there have been three fatalities in the Stonehaven derailment, including the driver and one of our conductor members, is the most dreadful news.
'This trade union's thoughts are with the families, colleagues and friends of those who have lost their lives in this tragedy.
'RMT will unite to provide support, assistance and solidarity at this distressing time.
'Safety on the railway has to be an absolute priority and this union will be working with the various agencies to establish the facts behind this disaster which has sent shock waves right throughout our industry.'
Speaking outside Stonehaven Police Station, Chief Inspector Brian McAleese said the Crown Office will direct the investigation.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the fatal train derailment in Aberdeenshire must 'never happen again' as he joined Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in paying tribute to the victims.
The PM also called for a probe into the impact of 'substantial rainfall on vulnerable infrastructure' amid fears the crash, which killed three people, was caused by a landslip due to torrential rain.
Mr Johnson said today: 'I am saddened to learn of the very serious incident in Aberdeenshire and my thoughts are with all of those affected. My thanks to the emergency services at the scene.'
The accident is the first time in more than 13 years that a passenger or member of staff has been killed in a crash - after a woman died and 89 other people were injured in a Virgin Trains derailment in Cumbria in February 2007.
It comes as homes were flooded, streets turned into rivers and properties were set on fire by lightning strikes as Britain's heatwave was interrupted today by thunderstorms and a month's worth of rain in just three hours.
Scotland was hit by 17,000 lightning strikes in just 12 hours, as a landslide shut a road in Fife and there was a major outage at an exchange in Edinburgh affecting 100,000 customers' broadband on BT, EE and Plusnet.
Communities further south also face flash flooding today and tomorrow with further intense thunderstorms expected to inundate parts of Southern England with up to three inches of rain today - about a month's average.
Stonehaven is served by ScotRail trains heading north to Aberdeen and south to Edinburgh and Glasgow. It is also a calling point between Montrose and Inverurie.
Richard Clinnick, the news editor of Rail magazine, tweeted today: 'The front power car and all four of ScotRail set HA22 went down the embankment near Stonehaven. The ScotRail IC7 set was returning north on the Down Main having encountered a landslip further south when the accident happened.
'Incident log suggests three crew members and six passengers on board. At least one Mk 3 was on fire.'
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 ten 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.'
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie said the local hospital had declared a major incident, adding: 'It's obviously a terrible situation, a train derailment, the emergency services are on the scene.
'I've already spoken to Grant Shapps, who has spoken to Network Rail and the British Transport Police who are obviously investigating and assisting. I am aware that Aberdeen Royal Infirmary has declared a major incident.'
Mr Bowie said he had been in Stonehaven surveying the flood damage earlier today. He said: 'The situation was really bad this morning, the River Carron, the main river which flows through it, had burst its banks and the heavy rain had caused flooding in the centre of Stonehaven and lots of the side streets leading off it.
'Luckily, the water receded incredibly quickly and the river has peaked and is going down. 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.'
He added: '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.'
Speaking before First Minister's Questions today, Ms Sturgeon said a major incident has been declared.
She said that, although 'details are still emerging', there are 'early reports of serious injuries', adding: 'My immediate thoughts and the thoughts of those across the chamber are with all those involved.'
The Scottish Government's resilience room was made operational, and the First Minister was due to convene a meeting this afternoon.
Scottish Conservative leader in Holyrood Ruth Davidson also expressed her party's sympathies with those involved in the derailment. She said: 'May I add the thoughts of my party to those already been expressed regarding the incident in Stonehaven today.
'It is clear that this incident is serious and it will have affected a number of families across Scotland. We think of them at this time and also those emergency workers who are currently in attendance.'
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer added: 'My thoughts are with everyone involved in the serious incident in Aberdeenshire. Thank you to all the emergency services.'
Mick Lynch, the assistant general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said: 'RMT is aware of the major incident at Stonehaven and our reps are 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.
'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 Salaried Staffs' Association general secretary Manuel Cortes added: 'Our thoughts are with those caught up in this derailment, their loved ones and the emergency services and our members who are now involved in a rescue operation.
'Our union has had concerns about the amount of hours that some of our members who maintain have been doing. However, it's far too early to speculate whether this may have been a contributing factor to this morning's incident.'
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he was still waiting for a clearer picture of the 'very, very tragic' incident at Stonehaven.
He told the BBC: 'My thoughts go out to the families, the friends, all those who have been involved in what's happened today.
'We are still waiting for a clearer picture in terms of the numbers of those involved, indeed the numbers who may have lost their lives as well.'
He also told the BBC: 'There has been some very extreme weather and concerns about landslips.
'One of the things I have done today is convene emergency meetings in order to ensure that we look into that specifically along the line in other locations, just to make certain, while leaving the Rail Accident Investigation Board to do their job in the site itself.'
Mr Shapps added: '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.'
Asked about reports the driver is among the dead, Mr Shapps said: 'I don't want to pre-empt information which will come out from the police and other sources. It's clearly a very serious incident.'
Mr Shapps said he would be visiting the scene of the incident tomorrow. 'I will be going there tomorrow to understand the situation first hand and offer every possible assistance,' he told the BBC.
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: 'We currently have multiple resources in attendance at a train derailment near Stonehaven, including six ambulances, our special operations response teams, air ambulance, patient transport vehicles and the Scotstar emergency service. More information will follow when we have it.'
Rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) sent an inspector, with a spokesman saying: 'We're aware of an incident involving a train derailment near Stonehaven. Emergency services are in attendance and an ORR inspector will be attending.
'We will work with Rail Accident Investigation Branch, British Transport Police and the emergency services to investigate the full circumstances of what has happened.'
A British Transport Police spokesman said: 'BTP were called to the line in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire at 09.43am this morning following a report that a train travelling from Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street had derailed.
'Officers remain on scene this afternoon alongside the ambulance service, fire brigade and colleagues from Police Scotland.
'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.'
BTP Chief Superintendent Eddie Wylie added: '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 underway. 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.
'I know many people will understandably have questions, and we will be working closely alongside the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the Office of Rail and Road to establish the full circumstances of how the train came to derail.'
HM Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser said: 'We are saddened by today's incident and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those affected.
'ORR Inspectors are on site at Stonehaven, assisting in the preliminary investigation. We will work with other agencies, including the emergency services, to find out exactly what happened and identify the causes of this tragic incident.'
A Police Scotland spokesman said: 'A report was received of a train having derailed near Stonehaven at 9.40am on Wednesday, August 12. Emergency services are currently in attendance and the incident is ongoing.'
A ScotRail spokesman said: 'We're assisting the emergency services with an incident near Stonehaven, and will provide more information when available.'
A Network Rail spokesman said: 'We are working alongside the emergency services to respond to an incident involving a train near Stonehaven.
'It is too early to confirm the exact nature and severity of the incident and more details will be made available once known.'
A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: 'We were alerted at 9.47am on Wednesday August 12 to reports of an incident involving a train near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.
'Operations Control has mobilised 12 appliances and a number of specialist resources to the scene as part of a multi-agency response. Crews remain in attendance.'
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said: 'We are saddened to learn about the incident in Aberdeenshire today and our thoughts are with those affected.
'While an investigation will follow, our current focus is to provide every support we can in the immediate response.'
A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: 'HM Coastguard was called at around 10.33am today to assist Police Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service with an incident near Stonehaven.
'We are currently assisting as part of a multi-agency response and have sent coastguard rescue teams from Aberdeen, Stonehaven, Cruden Bay, Banff and Montrose along with a coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Prestwick.
'Two coastal operations area commanders and four senior coastal operations officers are also at the scene. This is an ongoing incident.'
Earlier, 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.
Britain's railways are often heralded as being among the safest in Europe.
The Aberdeenshire accident is the first time in more than 13 years that a passenger or member of staff has been killed in a crash.
One woman died and 89 other people were injured when a Virgin Trains service derailed at 95mph on the West Coast Main Line in Grayrigg, Cumbria, in February 2007.
The 300-tonne Pendolino train from London to Glasgow came off the tracks due to a badly maintained and faulty set of points.
Network Rail, the firm responsible for the upkeep of the railways, accepted it was at fault and was fined £4 million over safety failures.
The last time a train driver was killed in a crash was at Ufton Nervet, Berkshire, in November 2004.
A total of seven people died when the First Great Western train hit a car deliberately parked on the tracks in a suicide attempt by the vehicle's driver.
Fatal crashes on Britain's rail network occurred almost every year during the 1980s and 1990s.
Thirty-five people were killed and 415 others were injured when three trains collided near Clapham Junction station in south London in December 1988.
An inquiry found the primary cause of the crash was incorrect wiring work which led to a signal failure.
Five people were killed and a further 88 were injured when two trains collided in Purley, south London, in March 1989.
One of the trains careered down an embankment into gardens below, trapping people on board for several hours.
The trains should have been two-and-a-half minutes apart but one of them went through a red light.
Five people died when two trains were involved in a head-on crash near Cowden, Kent, in October 1994 after one of them failed to stop at a red signal.
A crash between a passenger train and a freight train in Southall, west London, in September 1997 left seven people dead and 139 injured.
An investigation found it was primarily caused by driver error and faulty safety equipment.
In October 1999, two trains collided at high speed close to Paddington station, also in west London, killing 31 people, with a further 227 taken to hospital.
A series of inquiries found the crash was caused by a Thames Trains service going through a red signal.
Four people were killed and more than 70 were injured when a Leeds-bound express train derailed south of Hatfield station in Hertfordshire in October 2000.
Engineering company Balfour Beatty was condemned in a Health and Safety Executive report for failing to effectively manage the inspection and maintenance of the track.
The company was fined a record £10 million and Network Rail was fined £3.5 million for breaching safety rules in relation to the crash.
I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.