In what could have caused “terrible injuries to people”, four hunting hounds have been killed by a train after running onto a railway line on New Year's Day in Somerset.
Network Rail said: “The driver of a train reported seeing a pack of dogs. Sadly, the train collided with four dogs near Templecombe, Somerset.
"As a result, we had to run trains at a reduced speed until we could confirm it was safe.”
The organisation added: “Trespassing on the railway is not only incredibly dangerous, but it’s also illegal.
"It risks terrible injuries to the people and animals involved, as well as causing unnecessary delays to passengers.”
The hounds are believed to have belonged to the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt who had been in the area that day.
A Network Rail manager sent to ensure the safety of the line discovered that “the dogs were gone" and they "expect they had been retrieved by their owners”.
ITV News obtained exclusive footage of dogs running across the railway just weeks before:
This is the second time in a matter of weeks that hounds have been seen on the tracks in Somerset.
Exclusive footage obtained by ITV News shows foxhounds running along the railway on December 13.
They are understood to be from the same pack that was hit a train on New Years Day.
A spokesperson for the North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs said: “This is exactly the kind of distressing incident we’ve been dreading and trying to warn people about.
"It’s not an exaggeration to say that we see the hounds on this stretch of line every time they’re brought to the area.
"It’s terribly sad for the dogs in this case but we fear it’s only a matter of time before we see a person injured."
British Transport Police told ITV News they had received reports about both incidents and said “we will actively pursue and take positive action against those who fail to comply with the simple instruction not to trespass.’
They are urging any witnesses to contact them.
The Blackmore and Sparkford Vale Hunt have been approached for comment.