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A British high-speed passenger train has crashed into a car at a level crossing and flown off the rails, killing six people and injuring scores.
"The 1735 train for Plymouth with 300 passengers on board collided with a vehicle at the crossing, completely derailing the train," said Andy Trotter, deputy chief constable of British Transport Police.
Passenger Harriet Myles, 19, said: "There was a big jolt, the train sped up and then turned on its side.
"I could hear people screaming and glass breaking. We stayed put for a while. It was so dark, we could not move."
Among the scores of injured, 11 were seriously hurt. The train's operator First Great Western, a subsidiary of rail and bus operator FirstGroup, said the train driver was one of those killed.
It was not immediately clear how the car came to be on the level crossing as the train was passing through.
There was no suggestion that infrastructure failure or railway staff were responsible for the crash, in a country where rail safety has been a political issue since a series of deadly crashes followed the industry's privatisation in the 1990s.
Crashes blamed on shoddy maintenance and poor driver training over the past five years have killed 42 people, shaking up the industry and causing political damage for the government.
Dozens of fire engines and ambulances were rushed to the crash site at Ufton Nervet, a village about 65 kilometres west of London.
A Reuters photographer saw a twisted carriage on its side surrounded by the searchlights of emergency service vehicles.
Some passengers were trapped for hours. Shortly before midnight (local time), police said that they believed no one was left in the wreckage but would carry on searching through the night.
"Conditions down there are very difficult. We're working in the pitch dark with only spotlights," an ambulance service spokesman said.
Jonny Saunders, a BBC correspondent on the train when it crashed, said:
"We came to a juddering halt. And then suddenly all the lights went off. Screaming and shouting. We were in pitch black and total chaos on the carriage for a few moments.
"I was incredibly lucky because the carriage that I was in didn't actually go over on its side, but the carriage in front of me did go over on its side and the carriage behind me went over on its side."
The train from London's Paddington station to Plymouth in south-west England crashed shortly after 6pm (5am AEDT today).
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