1995 Ais Gill rail accident
|Date||31 January 1995|
|Rail line||Settle-Carlisle Line|
|Cause||Line obstructed by landslide|
|List of UK rail accidents by year|
The 1995 Ais Gill rail accident occurred near Aisgill, Cumbria, at about 18:55 hrs on 31 January 1995 when a class 156 Super-Sprinter was derailed by a landslide on the Settle-Carlisle Railway line and was subsequently run into by a similar train travelling in the opposite direction. The conductor of the first train, Mr Stuart Wilson was fatally injured in the collision.
A Class 156 Super-Sprinter formed the 1626 Carlisle to Leeds via Settle service (headcode 2H88). It could only proceed as far as Ribblehead railway station, about 12 miles north of Settle, as the lines from Ribblehead to Settle were blocked by flooding; so it had to return to Carlisle. The driver changed cabs as the train was now heading northbound instead of southbound, and proceeded back over the Ribblehead Viaduct, and on to Aisgill Summit, the highest point on the line at 1,169 feet (356 m) above sea level. It was dark and raining heavily.
Near Aisgill Summit itself the train hit a landslide. It derailed across both tracks, and the cabin lights went off plunging it into darkness. The injured driver managed to make an emergency radio call to Crewe Control Room to tell them of the incident. However, the actions at Crewe and York Control Rooms did not prevent the subsequent collision. The conductor escorted passengers into the rear unit, which was across the northbound track. He then returned to see the driver who was still in the cab. Either the conductor or the driver (it is not known which) changed the lights from white to red to warn oncoming trains of the obstruction but no other action was taken.
Meanwhile, another Super-Sprinter train forming the 1745 Carlisle to Leeds service (headcode 2H92) had set off from Kirkby Stephen railway station around five miles to the north. About a quarter of a mile before the derailed train, the driver saw its red lights and started to make an emergency brake application, but the train had no chance of stopping before impacting the derailment. The resulting collision killed the conductor of the derailed train, and seriously hurt several passengers: 30 people on the trains suffered some kind of injury. The signalman at Settle Junction signal box was informed of the accident by the conductor of the 2H92 service and the emergency services were then alerted.
The official inquiry into the accident concluded that the conductor of the derailed train (2H88) failed in his paramount duty to protect his train in the event of an incident by laying down detonators and displaying a red flag one mile away from the obstruction. As the driver of the train was incapacitated, the conductor should have protected the line in front of the train in case another train should approach from the opposite direction (as in fact actually happened). The time between the initial derailment and the subsequent collision was about six or seven minutes which would have allowed a much greater warning time to be given to the second train, and might have prevented the collision or at least reduced its impact. The inquiry noted that a transcript of the call made from the driver of the train that hit the landslide. In his communications with the control centre at Crewe, the call ended with a control saying "we will take care of all of that, driver." This may have given the false impression that the southbound service that hit the first stricken service, would be warned appropriately and so the guard set about tending to the needs of his passengers. The chairman of the inquiry, Mr E N Clarke, said that protecting the train should have been the priority of the guard.
Further recommendations were made concerning the inadequate communications between Railtrack Control Rooms and inefficient use of the National Radio Network. A "group call" to all trains in the vicinity of the incident could have been made by the Control Room and might have alerted the second train to the obstruction in time to prevent the collision.
In 1999 a similar incident occurred on the Settle and Carlisle line at Crosby Garrett, north of Kirkby Stephen, where a landslide caused a Carlisle-bound Sprinter to derail. The driver set off a warning horn mounted on the track, and although a southbound goods train hit the Sprinter, nobody was seriously hurt. This took place during bad weather conditions similar to the 1995 incident.
- Clarke 1997, p. iv.
- Clarke 1997, p. 1.
- Piggott 1995, p. 6.
- Clarke 1997, p. 2.
- "BBC NEWS | UK | Chronology of rail crashes". news.bbc.co.uk. 30 May 2002. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Guard's death "could have been avoided"". Cumberland and Westmorland Herald. 22 November 1997. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- Piggott, Nick (April 1995). "Fatal smash on Settle Carlisle". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 141 no. 1128. p. 6. ISSN 0033-8923.
- Clarke, E N (1997). Fatal accident near Ais Gill (Report). Health & Safety Executive. ISBN 0 7176 1477 8.