Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ufton Nervet rail crash
On 6 November 2004 at 18:12 GMT, the 17:35 First Great Western departure from London Paddington to Plymouth hit a stationary car with the driver inside at an automatic level crossing, located close to the rural Berkshire village of Ufton Nervet.
The rear of the 220m HST set came to rest approximately 100 metres beyond the crossing with all eight passenger carriages derailing. Six people were killed in the crash, including the car's driver, the driver of the train, and four of its passengers. One passenger subsequently died in a hospital, resulting in a total of seven fatalities. Approximately 300 people were on board at the time of the incident, with around half of these injured, including twelve serious injuries. Eleven people had to be cut free from the wreckage.
The accident, investigation and necessary repairs blocked the main railway route between London and the West Country until the morning of 16 November, subsequently operating under temporary speed restrictions to allow the bedding in of ballast. In the meantime inter-city trains operated via Swindon and Westbury and local services were replaced by rail and bus shuttles.
In Britain, fully automatic "half barrier" level crossings are used on quiet roads where rail linespeed is not more than 100 mph (160 km/h). These are unmonitored and are designed so that a car cannot get accidentally trapped behind a forward barrier. This also allows a person to attempt to "zig zag" around the barriers onto the track, usually in an attempt to save time. On busier roads, bridges or tunnels are preferred, or where this would be prohibitively expensive, a full barrier crossing is built. These are always monitored by CCTV, or less often in person, and the facing barriers are only closed once all cars have cleared the line.
An investigation has begun, carried out by Thames Valley Police and the British Transport Police. A preliminary report by the Health and Safety Executive indicated that the car stopped on the level crossing prior to any warnings, and failed to react to the barrier alarm sequence. A minor deflection of the stationary car to one side by the train derailed the forward bogie, which continued to travel at about 25° to the rails until reaching points at the start of a passing loop. The power car at this point fully derailed, causing the remainder of the train to also slip the points.
In the absence of information from the investigation, local and press speculation centred on the theory that Bryan Drysdale, the car's driver, may have parked on the level crossing in order to commit suicide, because there is no evidence of any attempt to move or exit the car. However there is no published hard evidence to confirm this theory, and some of the speculation gives the impression of being more motivated by homophobia than an attempt to find the truth.
The preliminary report of the Rail Safety and Standards Board published on 1 February 2005 reports among its findings so far that:
- the automatic half barrier equipment and its associated ancillary equipment is in good condition and properly maintained.
- the driver shut off power and coasted for around four seconds, which was normal for this point in the journey. He then made an emergency brake application at or about the time of impact with the car.
- lighting was completely lost in all the coaches during the accident. As a result, passengers and crew found orientation difficult, though the provision of snap light wands alleviated this problem to some degree. Some passengers who attempted to break windows in order to escape from the vehicle were hampered by breakage of the window hammers, and by the difficulty of reaching the upper windows of a vehicle leaning heavily to one side.
- no evidence that the maintenance condition of the train contributed in any way to the derailment or exacerbated its consequences.
- no evidence has been presented to the inquiry that would indicate there were any deficiencies in the fitness for duty on the part of the staff of either Network Rail or First Great Western.
List of the deceased
- Bryan Drysdale, 48, of Reading, Berkshire (the car driver)
- Louella Main, 9, of Speen, Berkshire (the daughter of Anjanette Rossi)
- Stanley Martin, 54, of Torquay, Devon (the train driver)
- Charlie Matthews, 72, of Warminster, Wiltshire
- Anjanette Rossi, 38, of Speen, Berkshire (the mother of Louella Main)
- Barry Stevens, 55, of Wells, Somerset
- Emily Webster, 14, of Moretonhampstead, Devon
The accident occurred at a level crossing, located on the narrow lane linking the village of Ufton Nervet to the Bath Road (A4) and about 300 metres from the junction of the lane with the main road. In railway terms, the crossing is located between the stations of Theale and Aldermaston, although both of these are local stations not stopped at by the train involved.
- List of British rail accidents
- Glendale train crash A crash on the Los Angeles commuter rail network with similar circumstanes.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details