Severn Tunnel rail accident

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Severn Tunnel rail crash
Date 7 December 1991
Location Severn Tunnel, between English and Welsh borders
Country Great Britain
Rail line Great Western Main Line
Cause Track circuit failure or driver error
Trains 2
Deaths 0
Injuries 185 (5 serious)
List of UK rail accidents by year

The Severn Tunnel rail accident occurred in the tunnel on 7 December 1991.[1]

The 08:30 London Paddington to Cardiff Central HST was stopped at a signal guarding the entrance to the Severn Tunnel. On telephoning the signalman according to Rule 55, the driver was advised of a signal failure and given permission to proceed slowly at caution. Three miles into the tunnel, the train was struck from behind by a Class 155 Super-Sprinter travelling from Portsmouth to Cardiff. 185 passengers were injured, including five seriously, but none fatally.[1]

Because track circuits were unreliable in the unusually wet tunnel environment (10 to 20 million gallons of water are pumped out per day),[2] axle counters were used instead. The official report into the accident[2] could not reach a firm conclusion, but speculated that the cause was either:

  • an unaccountable error on the part of the Sprinter driver, or:
  • technicians in the relay room at Severn Tunnel Junction had reset the axle counter while investigating the earlier fault, thus clearing the signal for the Sprinter.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Stephen, Paul (7 December 2016). "Deep Impact". Rail Magazine. No. 815. Peterborough: Bauer Media. pp. 54–57. ISSN 0953-4563. 
  2. ^ a b Seymour, R.J. Railway Accident in the Severn Tunnel. H.M. Railway Inspectorate. 

Coordinates: 51°34′41″N 2°41′46″W / 51.57806°N 2.69611°W / 51.57806; -2.69611