The incident occurred at around 11.20am when trains ET1023 from Barletta Central to Bari Airport and ET1018 from Bari Airport to Barletta Central collided on a single-track section of the standard-gauge Bari - Ruvo - Barletta line between the towns of Corato and Andria. Both services were operated by Bari-based public transport operator Ferrotramviaria, which also owns the infrastructure.

The two trains involved in the collision were a Stadler ETR 341 Flirt EMU and an Alstom ELT 200 EMU.

Ferrotramviaria's 81km network is electrified at 3kV dc and includes 40km of single-track line. Track-doubling is underway on the section where the collision occurred and the line is still equipped with telephone block signalling. Last December the company had announced plans to install the Italian SCMT automatic train protection system on the Ruvo - Bitonto section of the Bari - Barletta line.

While the National Authority for Railway Safety (ANSF), monitors safety on most of the main line network in Italy, responsibility for monitoring safety on private railways such as Ferrotramviaria falls to Ustif, a branch the Italian Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.

Ferrotramviaria has already launched an internal investigation and Italian State Railways (FS) and Italian Railway Network (RFI) have offered to provide the regional operator with technical support as it seeks to establish the causes of the collision.

The prosecutor in the nearby town of Trani has also opened a judicial investigation.