Ladbroke Grove Rail Crash – 1999

The Ladbroke Grove rail crash, sometimes known as the Paddington train crash, occurred at 08.08 on October 5 1999. The accident involved a diesel train operated by Thames Trains, running from Paddington to Bedwyn, Wiltshire, and a First Great Western express train coming in from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

The trains crashed head-on at Ladbroke Grove Junction, just west of London’s Paddington Station. A combined speed of 210 kph (130 mph) tossed and rolled carriages off the tracks. The first coach of the Thames train was wrecked and its load of fuel caused fire to spread throughout the train. The front coach of the express train was also totally burnt out. Altogether 31 people died and 523 others were injured, some extremely seriously. Ambulances and firefighters dashed to the site, and the vast plume of smoke that rose was visible for miles.

In December 2000 the Health and Safety Executive published their investigation on technical issues and the immediate handling of the aftermath of the crash. Lord Cullen conducted the Public Inquiry that followed in which it was established that Michael Hodder, driving the Thames train, had missed a red signal shortly before impact. Qualified for only 13 days, he appeared to have received no special instructions about his route.

A particularly shocking discovery was that, during the previous six years, eight other trains had also missed the same signal, fortunately without ill-effect; but drivers had already warned inspectors about the lack of visibility of both that and other signals. Lord Cullen criticized Railtrack, who were responsible for track maintenance and signalling, their staff in Slough for failing to send an ‘emergency all stop’ signal, and the Railway Inspectorate for their inspection procedures. Published in 2001, the report made 163 separate recommendations for improving safety.

When was the Ladbroke Grove Rail Crash: October 5 1999

Where was the Ladbroke Grove Rail Crash: Ladbroke Grove Junction, near Paddington Station, London, UK

What was the Ladbroke Grove Rail Crash death toll: There were 31 deaths, including both train drivers, and 523 were injured.

You should know: Two years earlier, this time at Southall, there had been another lethal crash on the Great Western mainline in which seven people died and 150 were injured. A joint inquiry concerning both accidents made 39 safety recommendations, in 2004 a £2 million fine was imposed on Thames Trains for breaking health and safety laws, in 2005 the Crown Prosecution Service said it would not prosecute any individuals, in 2007 Network Rail (formerly Railtrack), who pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act, were fined £4 million, plus £225,000 in costs.

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