Memorial held to mark Clapham rail disaster 25th anniversary
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Clapham Junction rail distaster that killed 35 people, injured hundreds and permanently changed the way Britian’s railways are managed and tested.
Shortly after 8am on December 12, 1988, two trains carrying more than 1,300 people crashed near Clapham Junction station, the UK’s busiest railway junction, at speeds approaching 40mph.
Within seconds a third empty train then ploughed into the wreckage, which had encroached on to the opposite tracks, killing some of those who had miraculously survived the first crash.
Speaking to the Wandsworth Borough News following the crash Emanuel School pupil 18-year-old Simon Murie, who was one of the first at the scene, said: “The first thing I saw was one man who was obviously dead.
“Both his legs had been taken right off.
“There were at least four or five other bodies lying in the space between the two trains.
“We tried to pull away heavy wreckage burying some of the people, but one man just appeared to have the whole train on him.”
Following the crash, the worst in recent memory, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered a full scale inquiry led by Anthony Hidden QC.
The Hidden Inquiry found the primary cause of the crash was “wiring errors” made by a rail worker who had had one day off in 13 weeks prior to the incident.
The short circuiting wire gave a false signal to one of the train drivers, telling him it was safe to proceed.
The Hidden report made 93 recommendations for safety improvements, including mandatory testing on British Rail signalling work and a limit on the hours signalmen were allowed to work.
Although British Rail, which ran the UK’s railways before Network Rail, was fined £250,000 for breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act, there was frustration that there was no prosecution for manslaughter.
In 1996, the collision was one of the events cited by the Law Commission as reason for new law on manslaughter, resulting in the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
The Hidden Inquiry also recommended the installation of automatic train protection (ATP) equipment, which governs the speed of trains and automatically stops them at red lights, for the whole rail network.
But the £750m price tag was considered too high by British Rail and the Government immediately prior to privatisation in 1993.
Fatal crashes in Southall, Paddington and Ladbroke Grove between 1997 and 1999 failed to push the installation of ATP, but eventually the Train Protection and Warning System was installed across the network.
A memorial ceremony is taking place today in Spencer Park, Trinity Road, at 8.30am for family and close friends before a larger public remembrance at 10.30am.
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Praise for rescuers who prevented further loss.
Emergency services as well as Wandsworth Council officers were praised by local MPs for their swift response to the Clapham rail crash that resulted in many lives being saved.
The two MPs also criticised overcrowding on the Basingstoke train, which was later found to have contributed to the death toll.
Just hours after the crash, almost 1,000 people flocked to St George’s following a national appeal for vital blood supplies to be donated.
Desperate to do their bit, queues of donors patiently waited for three hours to give blood to those who were injured. The landlords at the nearby Roundhouse pub, Jim and Josie Brill, were also singled out for praise after opening the doors to their pub to rescuers, emergency workers and survivors.
Mrs Brill stayed up for 36 hours ensuring everyone who came to the pub had what they needed.
Students first on scene.
The collision was directly behind Emanuel School and the incident was heard clearly by those already at the school.
As many as 60 students and teachers raced to the site and were the first responders, providing much-needed help.
Students reported many passengers were convinced the train was about to explode, fuelling the sense of panic.
A makeshift medical tent was set up at the school where surgeons were operating on passengers unable to be get to St George’s Hospital.
They were commended for their service by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
A memorial marking the spot of the crash site is above the railway in Windmill Road by Spencer Park, Battersea.
The 35 victims of the crash:
• Gillian Allen
• Clive William Attfield
• Jane Melanie Aubin
• John Felmingham Barrett
• James Robert Beasant
• Michelle Boyce
• Timothy Charles Burgess
• Glenn Ashley Allen Clark
• Arthur George Creech
• Norman Edward Dalrymple
•Brian Richard Gerald Dennison
• Stephen Michael Dyer
• Romano Falcini
• Paul Derek George Hadfield
• Edna Rosa Hannibal
• Geofsy Ralph Hartwell
• Stephen Grzffiths Hopkins
• Everett William Parks Lindsay
• Stephen John Loader
• Joseph Martin
• Alison McGregor
• Christopher Roger Molesworth
• David John Moore
• Teresa Moore
• Michael Newman
• Beverlie Niven
• Austin Paul Perry-Lewis
• Alan Philipson
• John Philip Rolls
• Alma Smith
• Tracey Stevens
• Erroll Derek Taylor
• David Arthur George Thomas
• William Joseph Webb
• Alan Wren
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