Train crash driver 'impossible to identify'

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Transport Correspondent

The mystery of who was operating one of the two trains in the Cowden train crash in which five people died - whether it was the driver or the guard in the cab with him - will never be solved, according to the Health and Safety Executive inspector's report.

The accident on a single-line section of track on the Kent- Sussex border on a foggy morning in October 1994 involved a head-on crash. There has been widespread speculation that the guard, Jonathan Brett- Andrews, a train enthusiast who had failed his drivers' examination and been reprimanded twice for driving trains, was at the controls of the train which crashed into the other. The driver unaccountably ignored four separate warning signals which the inspector reckoned were functioning properly.

Both Mr Brett-Andrews and the train's driver, Brian Barton, were killed along with the driver of the other train and two passengers in the accident on the Oxted to Uckfield branch line, parts of which had been made single track a few years before as an economy measure.

The pathologist who examined the bodies was unable to determine from their injuries who had been at the controls. Both were found pinned between the roof of their driving trailer and the front of the other train.

Major Kit Holden, Assistant Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways, who wrote the report, said that "there was no direct evidence as to where they had been before the impact". He said he was inclined to think Mr Barton was at the controls but it was impossible to be sure.

The main section of the inquiry report was published last year and yesterday's second section only addressed the issue of who was driving. Major Holden said he could only reiterate what he said in the first part of his report - that "driver Barton" was in charge of the train heading north and was "wholly responsible for the accident".

Major Holden said he had no more recommendations to add to those in the first report when he said the accident might not have happened if two- way radios had been fitted in the trains. A signalman had noticed that Mr Barton's train had tripped the points but was unable to alert the drivers because the trains did not have radios.