Newton (South Lanarkshire) rail accident

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Newton Rail Crash
Date 21 July 1991
Location near Newton, South Lanarkshire
Country Scotland
Rail line Argyle Line/Cathcart Circle Line
Strathclyde Passenger Transport
(West Coast Main Line)
Cause SPAD, inadequate junction layout
Trains 2
Deaths 4
Injuries 22
List of UK rail accidents by year

On 21 July 1991, two commuter trains crashed just west of Newton station in the south-eastern outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland. The junction had been remodeled in the month previous to the crash.


At 21.55, a Class 303 left the "down" platform at Newton on a Newton-Glasgow Cathcart Circle service. Meanwhile, a Class 314 forming a Balloch-Motherwell Argyle Line service was crossing from the fast West Coast Main Line tracks through a single-lead junction to enter the "up" platform. The two trains collided head on at the junction, killing both drivers and two passengers and injuring 22. As both units were travelling at an estimated 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) each, the impact of the crash was 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) and as a result, the Class 303 unit overrode the buffer unit of the Class 314 unit and the trains telescoped over one another.[1] The leading coach of the Class 314 was completely destroyed (being cut up at the site) later replaced by a redundant Class 507 driving motor vehicle.[2]

People who lived in the area near to the crash described hearing something that sounded "like an explosion" and soon 400 people had gathered at the crash site. One local ran to Newton to telephone the signaller on duty and had asked him to turn the overhead wires off as he had feared for the safety of everyone.[3]


Schematic of the trackwork of the Newton (South Lanarkshire) rail accident. The red line indicates the line that was removed to make a single lead junction. This line was replaced after the crash.

As with all crashes, a report into the accident was commissioned by British Rail which started on the 23 July 1991[4] and reported into the Health and Safety Executive who published a report in November 1992. A separate fatal accident inquiry team, composed of the Sheriff's court of Glasgow, were taken to the crash site by train in February 1993. They rode in train from the low level platform at Glasgow Central to the crash site at Newton and they were then bussed to the signalling centre which controlled the points and lights at Newton at the time of the crash.[5]

The accident was attributed to the Cathcart Circle train passing a signal at danger and causing a collision at the single-lead junction, as at Bellgrove in Glasgow just over a year earlier. The junction's configuration was newly installed at a cost of £5 million and designed to be simpler than the double-lead junction that it replaced.[6] This allowed faster running on the WCML following the East Coast electrification (through Carstairs) but was inherently less safe. The configuration was unnecessarily constrained and was strongly criticised in the accident report[7] and by contemporary commentators (Hall 1999).


Following the accident the junction was closed, with a special timetable in place for several months whilst the layout was revised to provide double track from the platforms towards Kirkhill. Diversions included West Coast Main Line trains being diverted via the Rutherglen and Coatbridge Railway and Whifflet with electric trains hauled by diesel locomotives to Mossend Yard, East Coast Main Line trains terminating at Edinburgh Waverley, and Lanark and Motherwell trains being diverted along the North Clyde Line via the Whifflet link line immediately west of Coatbridge Sunnyside.

After the accident, the track that had been removed was replaced immediately[6] and it remains there to this day.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stephen 2016, pp. 62-63.
  2. ^ Kelly, Peter, ed. (September 1991). "Newton Collision". The Railway Magazine. London: IPC. 137 (1085): 609. ISSN 0033-8923. 
  3. ^ "Policeman found three dead in Newton crash wreckage". HeraldScotland. 19 January 1993. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "Rail Crash (Glasgow) (Hansard, 22 July 1991)". 779. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  5. ^ "Inquiry team goes by train to scene of fatal Newton crash". HeraldScotland. 4 February 1993. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Stephen 2016, p. 62.
  7. ^ "A report of an inquiry into the collision that occurred o the 21st July 1991 at Newton Junction" (PDF). Health & Safety Executive. November 1992. p. 45. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  8. ^ Jacobs, Gerald (2007). Scotland and Isle of Man. (5th ed.). Bradford on Avon: TRACKmaps. p. 7R. ISBN 978-0-9549866-3-6. 


Coordinates: 55°49′9″N 4°8′16″W / 55.81917°N 4.13778°W / 55.81917; -4.13778