A suspected drink-driver cheated death by leaping from his car moments before it was crushed by a train on a level crossing.

Police found the wreck of the BMW at around midnight on Thursday and shortly afterwards breathalysed the driver, 29.

He was arrested on suspicion of drinking behind the wheel and endangering safety on the railway and remains in custody, British Transport Police said.

The man tried to drive over the crossing in Wokingham, Berkshire, as the train hurtled towards him but jumped out of the driver’s seat at the last minute, according to witnesses.

His BMW was found dragged down the track with its roof ripped in half, its windscreen smashed and its front torn off.

The Waterloo Road crossing has been closed for investigation and all lines between Wokingham and Ascot remain blocked.

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South Western Railway said services running through these stations will be revised and disruption is expected to continue until 5pm this evening.

One person claiming to live near the crossing – who did not wish to be named – said ‘it sounded like a bang and then a screeching sound’.

Samantha Atkinson, another resident, told The Reading Chronicle: ‘It sounded like something large being dragged along by the wind. It happened around 11.25pm, and I could hear police and helicopter circling later.’

A passenger on the train which smashed into the car said they had been asked to stay in their carriage while police dealt with the situation.

British Transport Police said: ‘Officers were called just before midnight on Thursday to reports of a car being struck by a train at Waterloo level crossing, Wokingham.

‘Fortunately, there have been no reported injuries. Passengers were taken to destinations by coach.’