Nuneaton rail crash

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Nuneaton rail crash
The aftermath of the crash, which killed six people and injured 38.
The aftermath of the crash, which killed six people and injured 38.
Date 6 June 1975
Location Nuneaton, Warwickshire
Country England
Rail line West Coast Main Line
Cause Overspeed on temporary track
Driver error/lineside equipment failure
Trains 1
Deaths 6
Injuries 38
List of UK rail accidents by year

The Nuneaton rail crash was a train crash that occurred on 6 June 1975, on the West Coast Main Line just south of Nuneaton railway station in Warwickshire, England.

It happened when the 23:30 sleeper from London Euston to Glasgow was derailed after entering a temporary speed restriction at too high a speed. Six people (four passengers and two staff) died and 38 were injured. In the subsequent inquiry,[1] the accident was deemed to have been caused by driver error, partially due to the failure of lineside equipment warning of the speed restriction.

The accident[edit]

The accident occurred at approximately 01.55, as the train approached Nuneaton station. The train was running over an hour late owing to a locomotive failure further south, and was composed of two Class 86 electric locomotives (nos. 86006 and 86242; both later repaired) and fifteen carriages, including twelve sleeping cars.

Just south of Nuneaton station, there was a temporary speed restriction of 20 mph for a distance of just over a mile, owing to a track remodelling scheme. An advanced warning board was located at the standard 'service breaking distance' of a mile and a quarter before the restriction. This board should have been illuminated, but was not. The driver claimed that he assumed this meant the restriction had been lifted, so did not need to slow the train. It was not until he saw the correctly illuminated 'commencement board' marking the start of the restriction that he realized it was still in place, but by then it was too late.

Despite an emergency brake application, the train entered the 20 mph restriction at a speed estimated at around 70 mph and became derailed on a length of temporary track being used during the remodelling scheme. The locomotives became detached from one another, the second mounting the northbound platform and causing damage to the station. The first two vehicles stayed mainly upright, but the next four fell onto their sides and were badly crushed. All the fatalities and most of the injuries occurred in these four sleeping cars. Every vehicle on the train was derailed except the last. Over a quarter of a mile of track was destroyed along with three lineside electrification gantries, and severe damage was caused to an overhead road bridge, numerous other items of trackside equipment, and the locomotive of a passing freight train (Class 25 number 25286). It was noted in the inquiry that casualties would have been much higher if not for the lightly loaded nature of the train (there were fewer than 100 passengers on board).

On board the train was the government minister for agriculture Fred Peart, he survived the accident with minor injuries.[2]

The Inquiry[edit]

Illuminated warning board for a 20 mph speed restriction.

The inquiry, conducted by Major C.F.Rose, found the accident to be due to the following causes;

  • The advance warning board was not illuminated because the gas equipment which powered it was not being used properly.
  • A number of drivers on preceding trains noticed that the lights had gone out, but did not report it.
  • Although he claimed otherwise, it was thought likely that the driver, in his haste to make up lost time, forgot about the speed restriction without the reminder of the advance warning board.

The driver, Mr J. McKay, was later charged with manslaughter but found not guilty. A number of recommendations to prevent a recurrence of the accident were accepted by the British Railways Board, and the later installation of the Automatic Warning System ensured that drivers were given audible notice of speed restrictions.


A plaque commemorating the victims of the crash, and the actions of the emergency services was unveiled at Nuneaton station in August 2015.[3]


  1. ^ Accident Report Retrieved on 2007-05-01
  2. ^ "Nuneaton train crash: Vivid memories 40 years on". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  3. ^ "Nuneaton Memorial unveiled 40 years on from Nuneaton train disaster". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°31′29″N 1°27′40″W / 52.5246°N 1.4610°W / 52.5246; -1.4610