The rail industry has today marked the 30th anniversary of the Clapham rail disaster with a special church service to remember the 35 people who were killed and the 484 that were injured.
Rail safety body RSSB has joined with the railway family in pausing to reflect on the tragic impact on many passengers, rail staff and their families, as well as to consider what has changed for the better in the 30 years since.
The disaster happened on 12 December 1988, when a crowded passenger train crashed into the rear of another train that had stopped at a signal. It subsequently veered into a third train heading in the opposite direction.
An accident inquiry chaired by Anthony Hidden QC found huge failings in the railway’s safety culture and management systems. These ultimately led to faulty wiring by a fatigued signalling technician, which caused an incorrect signal to be displayed to the train driver.
The inquiry made 93 recommendations for safety improvements, including a limit on the number of hours that signalmen could work and the introduction of automatic train protection (ATP) – a system that governs train speeds and automatically stops trains at red signals.
ATP was deemed too expensive to install at the time. But, after two further fatal rail crashes (Southall and Ladbroke Grove), a variant of ATP – the Train Protection and Warning System – was installed across the network from 2002.
Another key development was the creation of RSSB in April 2003 to ‘lead and facilitate the rail industry’s work to achieve continuous improvement in health and safety performance’.
The review recommendations, in conjunction with the efforts of Network Rail, the train companies and everyone associated with the network has resulted in a significant reduction in passenger fatalities and the UK Railway is now one of the safest in the world.
Mark Phillips, CEO of RSSB, said:
“Our thoughts today are with the families of those that have lost their lives on Britain’s railway. While we’re pleased to have seen a reduction in the number of fatalities caused by train accidents since the Clapham disaster, we should never become complacent and RSSB will continue to support the rail industry for a better, safer railway”.