The London Underground system – not altogether affectionately known as ‘The Tube’ – had seen assorted accidents since the first section opened in 1863. None was as serious as a crash that happened at Moorgate Station in 1975.
The 08:39 train from Drayton Park on the Northern Line’s Highbury Branch was due to terminate at platform nine, where passengers would transfer to alternative lines.
Instead of stopping, the six-car train accelerated past the platform on a spur that literally proved to be a dead end, entering a 20 m (66 ft) overrun tunnel. The train demolished a warning light, ploughed through a sand trap and hit hydraulic buffers – then a brick wall – at 65 kph (40 mph). It would have been catastrophic under any circumstances, but the run-off was a full-height railway tunnel allowing the first three cars to ride up over each other. The first was crushed into a V-shape, the second landed on top and was in turn telescoped by the third, which split in half.
Mangled wreckage filled the confined space, presenting emergency services with a daunting challenge. The final survivor was not freed for 12 hours and the body of driver Leslie Newson was recovered over four days later, the last of 43 confirmed fatalities. The cause of the disaster was obvious – Newson failed to brake – but the reason was never established. He definitely didn’t release the ‘Dead Man’s Handle’, a device that must be physically depressed to maintain power to Tube trains, and witnesses saw him sitting bolt upright and staring unnaturally ahead as the train gathered speed past the platform. The best explanations seem to be an inexplicable suicide or rare type of brain seizure where the victim is momentarily paralyzed. The Coroner’s Jury settled for a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’.
When was the Moorgate Tube Crash: February 25 1975
Where was the Moorgate Tube Crash: London, UK
What was the Moorgate Tube Crash death toll: 43 at the scene, with a number of passengers dying subsequently from injuries sustained.
You should know: The Moorgate crash was caused by the fact that driver Newson didn’t – for whatever undetermined reason – apply the brakes, so now all dead-end stops on the London Underground are fitted with a so-called Moorgate Control that automatically stops a train if the driver fails to do so.