Driver of crash train jumped a red light

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The Independent Online

A rush-hour crash between two commuter trains at one of the busiest railway stations in Britain was caused by a driver jumping a red light, an official accident report said yesterday.

A rush-hour crash between two commuter trains at one of the busiest railway stations in Britain was caused by a driver jumping a red light, an official accident report said yesterday.

Passengers on another train stranded by the crash near London Bridge in January were left to find their own way to safety. Investigators said they were "fortunate to escape injury, although the electric current was switched off".

The accident was probably caused by "human error", according to the report, and the driver of the Connex South Eastern train who passed through the signal at danger has since been permanently removed from driving duties.

The document, compiled by the Health and Safety Executive's Railway Inspectorate, disclosed that he had previously gone through a red light in July 1998 and was being given monthly assessments at the time of the crash.

Official figures show that, nationally, some 600 lights are passed at danger every year. This was the cause of both the Paddington disaster in which 30 people were killed and the Southall crash two years ago when seven lost their lives.

A new national safety group involving all sides of the industry met for the first time yesterday. The group was set up on Monday by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister.

Four people were taken to hospital after the collision at Spa Road Junction just south of the Thames near London Bridge station at 5.25pm on January 8, 1999.

Nine coaches from the two trains were derailed when the 3.51pm Connex train from Dover Priory in Kent to Charing Cross in London collided side-on with a 4.22pm Thameslink train travelling from Brighton to Bedford.

The Connex driver had five years' experience. He had been on duty for six and a half hours at the time of the collision, but was well rested, said the report.

The investigation found staff had been given deficient training in dealing with emergencies, but Connex had changed its emergency procedures to ensure that a responsible person was appointed to deal with each train affected by a major incident and to arrange the evacuation of passengers where necessary.

The Thameslink train had been signalled to proceed across the junction at Spa Road but the Connex train, which had run past a series of caution signals, failed to stop at the signal protecting the junction.

The Connex train was going at about 39mph and the Thameslink train, approaching from the same direction, was doing about 31mph when they collided.

A total of 282 people were evacuated from the trains and about 100 from another train trapped behind. The report said that there had not been a previous instance of a signal passed at danger (Spad) at Spa Road.

* A train driver sacked after passing a red light for the third time in six years has come to a confidential settlement with a rail company after taking it to an employment tribunal. Paul Bates, 47, a train driver for 19 years, had claimed unfair dismissal against Wales and West Passenger Trains.

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