POLICE have launched a manhunt after a motorbike dumped on a railway line was hit by a train travelling at around 50mph.
The bike, which police believe could have been stolen, was hit between Huncoat and Accrington stations by the 5.41am Colne to Blackpool South train yesterday.
The stunt has been branded ‘extremely dangerous’ by railway bosses who said it was ‘very lucky’ nobody was injured.
One MP said it could have had ‘unimaginable’ consequences if the train, which was slowing to stop at Accrington, had been travelling at a top speed of 70mph.
A spokeswoman for Northern Rail said the train hit the obstruction on a curved part of the track near Whitewell Road at around 6.25am. Eight passengers were on board and no-one was injured.
She said: “The driver had a look to see what damage was caused and the train was there for about 45 minutes which caused delays.
“It happened as the train was on approach and slowing to Accrington so was not travelling at full line speed.
“It is now being investigated by BTP and the bike could have been stolen and left abandoned.
“Something like that is extremely dangerous and we were very lucky no-one was injured.”
Hyndburn MP Graham Jones slammed the perpetrators.
He said: “Railway tracks are exceptionally dangerous places and people messing about near tracks are risking their lives.
“People get killed on tracks every year. The idea that someone would deliberately leave an object on the line is criminal.
“The consequences of that are unimaginable had the train derailed and the carriages buckled and concertinaed.
“It’s frightening to think how many casualties there would have been.
“The warning must be, to anyone on the tracks, ‘you are playing with other people’s lives’.”
Following the crash, the train’s driver inspected the damage and removed the bike’s debris.
The two-carriage train was then examined by officers from British Transport Police and Lancashire Police.
The transport police took control once it became clear nobody had been on the bike when it was hit.
Forensic evidence was taken, CCTV cameras checked, and witnesses interviewed, a BTP spokesman said.
The train was towed by another unit to Blackpool, where it was examined by engineers.
It was found to have suffered superficial damage and was still being inspected yesterday afternoon.
The incident left commuters facing delays of 45 minutes, with services between Blackburn and Colne and Burnley Manchester Road all affected during the morning rush hour.
Five services were part-cancelled and a further 28 were delayed.
The train line reopened at around 7.30am, and normal service resumed at around 8.45am, the Northern Rail spokeswoman added.
A spokesman for the BTP said: “Fortunately, the train was not derailed and no-one was injured.
“Placing or throwing objects onto the railway may seem like harmless fun to some people but what they don’t realise are the potentially serious consequences of their behaviour.
“This could have resulted in a much more serious incident.
“Trains travelling at high speeds risk being damaged or derailed, putting passengers’ and rail staff’s lives in danger.”
The Northern Rail spokeswoman said: “Incidents like this are not increasing or decreasing, it just happens.
“It’s something that happens across the network. We have even had hay bales fall off tractors and end up on the line before.
“People should not be trespassing on the railway lines for starters, and it can cause real problems.
“If somebody is seen on the lines, we have to stop trains, and it causes massive disruption.”
Trains can take up to the length of 20 football pitches to stop, it was estimated.
In 2011, the transport police issued a warning after a number of objects were left on lines across the country, including a mountain bike, a shopping trolley, and a wheelie bin.
Other incidents of bricks being deliberately left on railway lines have been reported in Lancashire.
If you saw the incident yesterday or have information that could help police, call BTP on 0800 40 50 40, or text 61016, quoting incident 49 of 10/01/2014, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.