Five die in head-on rail crash

FIVE people were killed and 11 injured yesterday in a train crash on the Kent-Sussex border which renews safety fears about single-track lines.

The accident, which is now the subject of an inquiry by the Railways Inspectorate, is the first fatal train collision since the Newton crash in 1991 in which four people died. That crash also occurred on a single- track line. The Inspectorate criticised British Rail severely for not adequately assessing the risks of such lines.

Yesterday's accident is certain to renew calls made after the 1988 Clapham disaster for Automatic Train Protection to stop trains going through red lights. The inquiry after Clapham said the protection should be fitted to all trains throughout the network by 1996 but British Rail has said it is too expensive.

The dead included the drivers of both diesel trains and three passengers, two men and a woman. None of the 11 injured was seriously hurt. The three remaining passengers on the 35-year-old trains escaped unhurt.

Thecrash, just south of Cowden station on the Oxted- Uckfield line, occurred at around 8.50am yesterday in heavy fog. The 8.04 southbound train from Oxted ploughed into the northbound 8.00 train from Uckfield at roughly the halfway point on the 26-mile branch line.

Both trains were travelling at 30mph. One passenger said: 'We pulled out of Cowden and started to build up speed when the driver suddenly cut the engine and slammed on the emergency brakes.

'There was an almighty bang and we were all thrown to the floor. The front carriage was completely destroyed.' He added that he could hear people screaming.

The trains should have passed on the double section of the line, which is about a mileand a half south of where the accident happened. The southbound train usually has priority. Yesterday, the northbound train went through on to the single track, apparently without being cleared.

Both trains had six cars. When they collided, the Uckfield-bound train was forced up over the top of the other train, shearing off most of the first carriage and leaving only the bogies and the running gear. The wreckage was thrown sideways to hang over the edge of a 30ft embankment.

Local rail-users have complained of the neglect of the line for many years. One regular commuter said he had been held up for an hour recently by the failure of points at the Blackham junction just south of the crash site.

Mike Skinner, a Liberal Democrat county councillor for Uckfield, said: 'In 1980, a report was sent to the British Railways Board saying that the line should only have safety maintenance and that eventually it should be closed. They've been running the line down.'

However, new colour light signalling was fitted in 1990 to replace the old semaphore signals. At the same time, the line was converted to a single track. Between 1989 and 1992 crashes on new single-track lines resulted in six deaths and 103 injuries.

Chris Jago, director of Railtrack South, said yesterday that the second track on the branch was removed because it was in a very poor state. 'The line's survival was at risk. The most important thing for the inquiry is to discover whether the signals were operating properly and also to check the integrity of the single line.'

Geoffrey Johnson Smith, Conservative MP for Wealden, who visited the scene said: 'I expressed concern about the the switch from double to single track but was assured on the safety by British Rail.'

Safety fears, page 2

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Engineers / Senior Electronics Engineers

£25000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in Henley-on-Thames, this...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project