Ufton Nervet rail crash
43019, the locomotive leading the derailed HST, pictured in 1993
|Date||6 November 2004|
|Location||Ufton Nervet, Berkshire|
|Rail line||Reading to Taunton Line|
|Operator||First Great Western|
|Cause||Obstruction on line|
|Deaths||7 (including the driver of the car involved)|
|List of UK rail accidents by year|
On 6 November 2004 at 18:12 GMT, the 17:35 service from London Paddington to Plymouth, an InterCity 125 (HST) led by a Class 43 power car (43019) collided with a stationary car at an automatic level crossing close to the rural West Berkshire village of Ufton Nervet. The inquest concluded that the crash was caused by Brian Drysdale, a chef at Wokefield Park Hotel 3 miles (4.8 km) away, committing suicide by parking his car on the crossing.
All eight coaches derailed and the rear of the 220-metre (720 ft) InterCity 125 train came to rest about 100 m (110 yd) beyond the crossing. Seven people were killed in the crash: the car's driver, the driver of the train, and five of its passengers. About 200 people were on board at the time of the incident (official estimates are around 180–200). About half of these were injured, 12 of them seriously. Eleven people were cut free from the wreckage. The high structural integrity of the Mark 3 coaches prevented a much higher death toll, plus the fact that the more lightly loaded first-class coaches were at the leading end of the train.
More than 20 ambulances from five counties and 14 fire engines attended the crash. Injured passengers were first helped at the Winning Hand pub, 300 m north. After the collision survivors in some carriages used emergency hammers to break the train windows to escape. The accident occurred at night, and so passengers used emergency glow sticks and their mobile phones to provide some light. 61 injured passengers were taken variously to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke. Other passengers were treated at the scene and the Winning Hand pub for minor injuries.
The crash, investigation and necessary repairs blocked the direct railway between London and the southwest until the morning of 16 November 2004. The line reopened under temporary speed restrictions to allow the bedding in of ballast. In the meantime long-distance trains operated via Swindon and Westbury and local services were replaced by rail and bus shuttles.
In the United Kingdom, automatic half-barrier level crossings (AHB/AHBC) are used on roads where traffic is unlikely to queue across the crossing and where rail line-speed is not more than 100 mph (160 km/h). Other than the train driver's line of sight, which is less effective at night, railway signalling control and train drivers have no means of knowing whether this level crossing (and many others) are clear. Half barriers close the crossing to road traffic but allow any road user on the crossing to escape without the need for a local controller to raise the barriers.
The crash was at a level crossing on the narrow lane linking the village of Ufton Nervet to the Bath Road (A4), about 300 m (330 yd) from their junction. Most of the surrounding land is rural including all of the land immediately by the railway.
List of fatalities
- Stanley Martin, 54, of Torquay, Devon (the train driver)
- Anjanette Rossi, 38, of Speen, Berkshire (the mother of Louella Main)
- Louella Main, 9, of Speen, Berkshire (the daughter of Anjanette Rossi)
- Charlie Matthews, 72, of Warminster, Wiltshire
- Barry Strevens, 55, of Wells, Somerset
- Emily Webster, 14, of Doccombe, Moretonhampstead, Devon
- Brian Drysdale, 48, of Reading, Berkshire (the car driver)
An investigation was carried out by Thames Valley Police and British Transport Police. A preliminary report by the Health and Safety Executive indicated that the car stopped on the level crossing before any warnings and failed to react to the barrier alarm sequence. A minor deflection of the stationary car to one side by the train derailed the forward bogie, which continued to travel at about 25° to the rails until reaching the points at the start of a loop. At this point the power car derailed completely, causing the remainder of the train to derail.
- The automatic half-barrier equipment and its associated ancillary equipment is in good condition and properly maintained.
- The train driver shut off power and coasted for around four seconds, which was normal for this point in the journey. He then applied the emergency brakes at or about the time of impact with the car.
- All lighting was lost in all the coaches during the accident. As a result, passengers and crew found orientation difficult, though the provision of glow sticks alleviated this to some extent. Some passengers who attempted to break windows in order to escape from the vehicle were hampered by the emergency hammers breaking, and by the difficulty of reaching the upper windows of a vehicle leaning heavily to one side.
- No evidence has been presented that the maintenance condition of the train contributed in any way to the derailment or exacerbated its consequences.
- No evidence has been presented to the inquiry that would indicate there were any deficiencies in the fitness for duty on the part of the staff of either Network Rail or First Great Western.
The RSSB report made recommendations including improving emergency communications at the level crossing and moving a set of points whose position was a factor in the train's derailment. Network Rail implemented all the safety recommendations.
On 1 June 2005 it was announced that an inquest into the crash would be held at the Guildhall in Windsor, Berkshire. The inquest was expected to last 12 days, starting on 17 October 2005. A delay ensued over whether the families of the victims should be granted legal aid. The inquest finally began in October 2007. A policeman who had witnessed the crash, PC Brazier, testified at the inquest. He told the jury that he believed the crash was caused by a suicide attempt. The Forensic Accident Investigator, David Price, told the inquest that he had been able to determine that the car had been parked on the level crossing with its engine switched off, the handbrake fully applied, the vehicle's lights switched off, the steering on a partial left-hand turn (which was not consistent with driving across the crossing), and that its fuel tank still contained at least 8 litres (about 2 gallons) of petrol.
On 1 November 2007 the inquest returned the verdict that the crash was caused by Brian Drysdale's suicide. A support network, the Ufton Nervet Train Crash Network, was set up for survivors and relatives of the victims.
Royal Humane Society awards
In 2005 the Royal Humane Society awarded its Bronze Medal to two passengers who were on the train: salesman Brian Kemsley and Royal Marines company sergeant major Tom McPhee. The two men found nine-year-old Louella Main and her mother Anjanette Rossi, both of whom had been thrown out of the train by the force of the crash. Rossi was dead but Kemsley testified to the 2007 inquest:
We came across a young person on the tracks and me and Tommy could see blood coming from the little girl's head and she had a little pulse. We were trying our hardest to keep her going.
Despite the men's efforts Main died of her injuries. Kemsley then found a clergyman who had been a passenger on the train, and got him to walk back to the bodies to say a prayer. McPhee also found injured passenger Sharmin Bacchus trapped in the wreckage, and kept her conscious until she was freed.
Beside the level crossing a small gravelled "Area of Reflection" has been created with two wooden benches facing an engraved steel memorial plaque remembering all people affected by the collision. Also, on what would have been his 55th birthday, First Great Western named power car 43139 after the driver of the train.
In July 2012 an Internet petition called for the level crossing to be replaced with a bridge. Network Rail subsequently announced that it was considering either converting the crossing to full barriers or a bridge. In March 2014, Network Rail stated that it "remained on course" to replace the level crossing "by mid-2014 or 2015". West Berkshire Council approved plans for a road bridge in August 2015, and preparatory work began the following month. On 18 April 2016, Network Rail held an official ceremony as construction began. The bridge was officially opened on 16 December 2016.
Since the 2004 crash there have been deaths at the crossing in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2014. The 2010 death was found not suspicious. The Coroner's inquest into the 2012 death recorded and open verdict as there was insufficient evidence to be certain that that fatality was the result of suicide. The 2012 collision also caused injury to the InterCity 125 driver. British Transport Police concluded that the circumstances surrounding the 2014 fatality were not suspicious.
There was a near miss at the same level crossing on 4 September 2011. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch investigated the cause, which was found to be an error by a signaller working in a central location who failed to contact the train driver and the attendant at the crossing. This failure was likely due to work overload of the signaller.
- "Six die as train ploughs into car". BBC News. 7 November 2004. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- "Six die as train ploughs into car". BBC News. 7 November 2004.
- "Railway Safety Principles and Guidance, part 2, section E, Guidance on level crossings" (PDF). HSE Books. 2005. Retrieved 13 October 2010.
- Leach, Maurice (1991). Railway Control Systems. London: A & C Black. ISBN 0-7136-3420-0.[page needed]
- "Formal Inquiry: Preliminary Report: Ufton Level Crossing Passenger Train Collision with a Road Vehicle and Subsequent Derailment, 06 November 2004" (PDF). London: Rail Safety and Standards Board. 25 January 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- "New safety call over level crossings". Western Morning News. South West Media Group. 4 November 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- "Ufton Nervet 2004 rail crash: Bridge being built at crossing". BBC News. 5 November 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- "Inquest into Ufton Nervet crash". BBC News. 1 June 2005. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- "Memorial for rail crash victims". BBC News. 5 November 2005. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- "Rail crash was 'suicide attempt'". BBC News. 17 October 2007. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- "Rail crash was caused by suicide". BBC News. 1 November 2007. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- Ufton Nervet Train Crash Network Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Royal Humane Society Bronze Medals, taken from the Annual Report for 2005". Life Saving Awards Research Society. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- Williams, Rachel (9 October 2007). "Plea for safer windows at rail deaths hearing". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- Clifton, Paul (November 2007). "The Survivors' Stories" (pdf). Rail Professional. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "Tributes paid to Exeter victims of Ufton Nervet train crash horror which killed seven people". Express & Echo. Local World. 6 November 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
- "Rail crash level crossing at Ufton Nervet: Bridge considered". BBC News. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "Ufton Nervet deaths: Network Rail apology 'late', says MP". BBC News. 7 March 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- "Ufton Nervet level crossing: Rail bridge approved". BBC. 6 August 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
- "Ufton Nervet level crossing: Rail bridge works begin". BBC. 16 September 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
- "Work starts at Ufton Nervet crash site as level crossing is replaced". Get Reading. Trinity Mirror. 19 April 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- Peach, Andrew (16 December 2016). "Ufton Nervet level crossing: Rail bridge works begin". BBC. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
- Williams, James (3 December 2012). "Anger over rail firm’s bridge decision at Ufton Nervet". Newbury Weekly News. Blacket Turner Co. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- "Fareham crossing death man is named by police". The News. Johnston Press. 1 February 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- "Ufton Nervet train crash victim named". Reading Chronicle. Berkshire Media Group. 23 May 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Cooper, Dan (28 October 2014). "Man hit by train at Ufton Nervet is named". Newbury Weekly News. Blacket Turner Co. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- "Open verdict at Ufton Nervet crossing inquest". Reading Chronicle. 19 September 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
- "Moped rider killed in Ufton Nervet level crossing crash". BBC News. 22 May 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "Man dies after being struck by a train at Ufton Nervet level crossing". Reading Chronicle. Berkshire Media Group. 16 October 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- "Rail Accident Report: Near miss incident at Ufton Automatic Half Barrier Crossing, Berkshire 4 September 2011" (PDF). Rail Accident Investigation Branch, Department for Transport. December 2012. 121220_R282012_Ufton. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
- BBC reporter eyewitness report – BBC News
- Seven train crash dead are named – BBC News
- Ufton Nervet crash victim recalls horror – ten years on – Newbury Weekly News
- Preliminary Coroner's summary - corporateaccountability.org
- Preliminary Health & Safety Exec. Report – PDF
- Rail Safety & Standards Board inquiry – PDF
- First Great Western press release – PDF