HERITAGE railways are being told to improve their safety standards after incidents where trains have collided with vehicles and a carriage was derailed.

Regulators are continuing to discuss measures to improve safety on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Meanwhile, the Wensleydale Railway has implemented changes after being served with improvement and prohibition notices by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

The ORR will issue advice in the coming weeks to the lines’ volunteers and staff at safety seminars organised by The Heritage Railway Association.

Concerns over the Leeming Bar to Redmire line, which carried 35,000 passengers across the Dales last year, surfaced after a tractor and a train collided at a level crossing, near Bedale, on June 30.

No one was injured, but ORR investigators found there were significant safety management shortcomings on the Wensleydale Railway, and issued an improvement notice in July.

But on August 1, a Volkswagen car hit a steam train near Newton-le-Willows, at a level crossing where visibility of approaching trains was restricted by vegetation to 39 metres.

One gate at the level crossing was missing and the other had been left open.

Nigel Park, the railway’s general manager, said: “If the driver, who was not injured, had been there a few seconds earlier, he would have been underneath the train.”

Trains have since had a 10mph speed limit imposed over user-worked level crossings, which Mr Park will maintain until a safety overhaul has been completed.

Mr Park said volunteers had spent the past six months tackling a 50-year backlog of maintenance on the line, improving visibility at its 48 user-worked level crossings, as well as launching a campaign to ensure people shut gates at crossings.

Philip Benham, general manager of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which had 350,000 passengers last year, said he was continuing to review procedures to prevent accidents after a carriage derailed at Grosmont station in November, due to a brake mechanism failing.

Northern Rail services on the Middlesbrough to Whitby line were suspended while a crane removed the carriage, which had not been carrying passengers.

He said: “It is a long time since we have had a serious accident and we want to keep it that way. Our aim is to make safety something passengers don’t even have to think about and to learn lessons from this incident.”