Thirteen hurt as trains crash through buffers

CHRISTIAN WOLMAR

Transport Correspondent

Accident investigators were yesterday examining rail lines for signs of slippery surfaces after two trains, one in Scotland and one in Liverpool, hit the buffers injuring a total of 13 people, although none very seriously.

In the more dramatic incident, the early morning train from Glasgow to Largs on the coast smashed into the buffers and continued ploughing down an incline into two shops on Main Street. The station, built in 1885, may have to be demolished.

Five people, including the driver and the guard, were injured but eye witnesses consider the lack of fatalities as nothing short of miraculous.

Gaile McKillop, who saw the accident from a window in her upstairs flat opposite the station, said: "We heard a noise, which gradually got louder. Then I heard the whole building shaking. It was as if it was ploughing through it like a set of dominoes and the next thing I could see was the whole corner of the building disintegrating."

The six-car electric train had gone through the buffers, clipped the rear of the ticket office and ploughed into the shops. The extent of damage suggests the train was going quite fast. Ideas that the crash was a result of slippery rails were not backed up by evidence which, rail sources said, "showed nothing unusual".

However, there has been a spate of incidents involving trains sliding through red lights or stations, particularly when dry weather has been followed by a shower or settling dew. Railtrack pointed out that the train was the third to use the rails into Largs that morning, and any slipperiness should have been cleared. Driver error or brake failure are other causes being investigated.

In Liverpool eight people received hospital treatment after a Wigan to Liverpool commuter train hit buffers at Lime Street station.

There were 200 people aboard the two-car Sprinter but the speed of impact was very low. The rails were wet from over-night rain and there is an incline into the station of one in 88, one of the steepest approaches. A similar accident happened at the station in October 1991 when the brakes failed on a train.

Both accidents are being investigated by the Railway Inspectorate. Last night, only the train driver and guard in the Largs crash were detained in hospital.

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