NETWORK Rail has been criticised for allowing trains to run in areas at significant risk of landslides.
An investigation into six incidents, three of which were in Scotland, found the rail operator should make a series of improvements.
These include better monitoring of the land around tracks and in some cases the deployment of personnel to at-risk areas, to warn drivers.
The report by the UK Department for Transport came two years after an accident in the Highlands in which a freight locomotive crashed into debris after a landslide and plunged down a hillside.
The train, hauling 24 aluminium powder wagons, came off the line above Loch Treig, near Corrour, in June 2012 and had to be cut up because it would have been too expensive to recover.
Three weeks later there were two more incidents in Scotland within hours of each other, which saw ScotRail trains carrying a total of more than 100 passengers and crew hit landslips near Falls of Cruachan in Argyll and Rosyth in Fife.
The report said if the Argyll passenger train had been derailed by the debris, “it is possible it would have fallen down an adjacent slope”.
The other three landslips, in 2012 and 2013, happened on the Cumbrian coast, in south Wales and in South Yorkshire. The only injury was a passenger suffering shock in the Welsh incident.
The Highland accident was the only one in which trains suffered more than minor damage.
The report said: “The landslips were caused by factors including heavy rain, absent or ineffective drainage and activities undertaken, or not undertaken, on neighbouring land.
“In several instances trains were being operated without special precautions when there was a significant risk of encountering a landslip.”
A UK government spokesman said these included the Highland incident, where someone should have been positioned beside the line to alert drivers of potential problems.”
The report also said: “There is a lack of clarity about who should be carrying out visual checks for risks which can develop on neighbouring land between examinations, which take place at intervals of up to ten years.”
A Network Rail spokesman said yesterday: “We invest millions each year in drainage and earthworks projects to try to limit landslips as much as possible.
“We have already changed our operating procedures in response to these incidents and will carefully consider the report and take any further action as appropriate.”