Southall Train Crash
At around 13.20 on September 19 1997 an Intercity 125 train from Swansea to Paddington was arriving in West London when at about 90mph it ploughed into a 20 wagon freight train across its path, striking the eighth ore wagon. The driver of the passenger train had seemingly passed through a red signal and another warning without noticing them. Seven people in the front two coaches died as they crumpled on impact; 139 others were injured to varying degrees.
Subsequent enquiries found that the Automatic Warning System on the 125 train was faulty, and inoperative. Had this been working it would have alerted the driver with a loud warning note as danger signals were passed. Incredibly another safety mechanism that equally might have prevented the smash was fitted on the train but not switched on – its Automatic Train Protection equipment. The driver was apparently not trained to use the system, and there were no rules stating that it had to be activated.
Fire and rescue teams were on site rapidly. Quick action was taken to extinguish a fire in hydraulic fluid before it took more serious hold. Injured passengers were taken to four hospitals in the area where emergency plans were put into action. The last passengers were freed from the wreckage within three hours of the impact.
After the crash was investigated Great Western Trains was fined £1.5 million.
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