Gatwick Express train breaks in two

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

BRITISH RAIL has started an investigation to find out why an InterCity train broke in half on New Year's Eve.

The 5pm Gatwick Express broke apart outside London's Victoria Station, leaving about 100 passengers stranded for more than one and a half hours.

Engineers inspected the damaged train and one theory is that a solid steel bar which holds the couplings to the body of the InterCity carriages broke as a result of metal fatigue, causing the couplings between the third and fourth carriages to shear off.

Passengers heard a series of bangs and the train rocked violently as the carriages became detached when it crossed points just south of the station. The train was travelling at 30mph and, as the carriages broke, automatic safety brakes slammed on, throwing some passengers out of their seats as the two parts of the train then locked back together.

Unlike normal Network SouthEast commuter trains, The InterCity carriages do not have buffers but are held together by two locking S-shaped couplings which are clamped together and in theory should never come apart. A solid steel bar then ties the couplings under the body of the carriages. Engineers believe one of the bars snapped and was dragged away from the other side of the train.

The express, which normally covers the journey from Victoria to Gatwick in 30 minutes and travels at speeds of 70mph or more, came to a halt about a quarter of a mile from the station. No one was injured. It was eventually towed back into Victoria, but about a dozen passengers missed their last flights to the Netherlands and Spain and were left stranded at Gatwick airport.