AN investigation was under way last night after another Selby-type disaster was narrowly averted on one of the region's railway lines.

Pressure was growing on the Government to act after a van plunged onto a line.

Saturday's accident, on the outskirts of York, happened only 20 miles from the scene of the Selby disaster, when ten people lost their lives in 2001 in a collision at Great Heck.

On that occasion, a vehicle and trailer plunged onto the line, causing a passenger train and a freight train to collide.

The disaster prompted a campaign by The Northern Echo, which has highlighted concerns that many bridge barriers, such as those involved in the latest incident, are not adequate.

The latest accident prompted calls from oneleading campaigner, and a survivor of the Selby crash, for the Government to address the problem urgently.

In bitterly cold conditions, a Ford Transit, skidded on the A59 as it neared a bridge over the York to Harrogate railway line.

It hit the crash barrier on the approach to the bridge and flipped over it before sliding down the embankment. The vehicle came to rest on the edge of the line, with debris spreading over the track.

About 400 yards away, a Leeds-bound train was waiting at Poppleton station for the signal to proceed on the single-track line.

The train driver watched in horror as the car slide down the embankment.

Police, Network Rail and the Health and Safety Executive have launched an urgent investigation.

A spokesman for Network Rail said there had never been any real danger to the train passengers. "At Great Heck, trains travel at up to 125mph and pass through every few minutes, but this is a slow stretch of a local line where you get perhaps one or two trains and hour going at 20mph," he said.

The driver and passenger in the van, from Scarborough, were treated in hospital for shock but were not seriously hurt.

Engineering expert and campaigner Professor John Knapton, from Newcastle University, who conducted a nationwide study into rail bridge safety, questioned the adequacy of the crash barrier which the van appeared to have hurdled.

He said: "These barriers are only designed to withstand cars hitting them. They will not stop a lorry or even a large van.

"They need to be replaced urgently."

The van was removed by a crane and the railway line remained closed for almost two-and-a-half hours.

A spokesman for the City of York Council, which has launched its own inquiry, said the road had been gritted the night before the accident.

The Selby disaster happened when driver Gary Hart fell asleep at the wheel and plunged into the East Coast Main Line, derailing a GNER express, which then ploughed into a freight train.

Hart, 38, has since been jailed but crash survivor Thomas Kaplanis, who broke his back in three places, reacted angrily to news of the York accident.

Mr Kaplanis, who was a waiter on the GNER express, said: "After Selby, the Government said they were going to do something about the barriers, but this shows yet again that nothing has been done.

"They are risking people's lives just to save money. This is reprehensible."

Prime Minister Tony Blair has already pledged to help councils find ways to finance repairs and improvements but campaigners say it is taking far too long.

Read more about the Railway bridges scandal here.