Clapham Junction tragedy: survivors and families remember 25 years on

 

Huddled against the cold and with heads bowed, a small congregation remembered the Clapham rail crash exactly 25 years after it claimed 35 lives.

It was at 8.13am on December 12 1988 that the devastating three-train collision happened close to Clapham Junction station in south London.

Today, at that exact same time, survivors observed a two-minute silence at the crash memorial site close to the scene of the accident.

One of those attending today was 71-year-old chartered accountant George Gillon, from London.

Travelling from Winchester in Hampshire, he had been in the third carriage of the London-bound Bournemouth train that was in the accident.

Standing by the memorial stone high above the railway line, Mr Gillon said: "I was one of the lucky ones. A number of my friends on that train were killed."

One of those attending today was 71-year-old chartered accountant George Gillon, from London.

Travelling from Winchester in Hampshire, he had been in the third carriage of the London-bound Bournemouth train that was in the accident.

Standing by the memorial stone high above the railway line, Mr Gillon said: "I was one of the lucky ones. A number of my friends on that train were killed."

The short service was conducted by the Rev Canon Hilary Johnson, head of chaplaincy at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London.

It was to St George's that many of the injured from the disaster were taken.

The two-minute silence observed by those remembering today was in stark contrast to the trains roaring past below in the criss-cross of lines leading into Clapham Junction, the capital's biggest station.

One of the wreaths laid at the foot of the memorial stone was from Network Rail, the body which took over responsibility for rail infrastructure in 2001.

Canon Johnson led the mourners in reciting the Lord's Prayer and Psalm 23 and her prayers included mention of the pupils of nearby Emanuel School, who had rushed to help treat the injured from the crash.

She later conducted a second, larger, service at the memorial site, with many train drivers and representatives of their union, Aslef, in attendance.

One former driver, Mick Withey, 71, from Teddington, south west London, was on holiday on the day of the crash but remembers hearing the news of the accident.

At Clapham today, he said: "I heard the crash was near Spencer Park (where the memorial site is) and I thought 'That's very close to Clapham Junction'.

"I remember thinking how brave the pupils from Emanuel school were in helping tend the injured."

Speaking before the memorial services today, Rail Minister Baroness Kramer said: "First and foremost, this anniversary affords us the opportunity to remember those who tragically lost their lives in the accident at Clapham Junction 25 years ago.

"Important lessons have been learnt since then and Britain today has one of the safest rail networks in the world. However, we must never become complacent. We must always make sure that safety remains the number one priority on our railways.

"Once again, we send our condolences and sympathy to those friends and family who will have particularly difficult memories on this occasion."

PA

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