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Worst Rail Accidents in the UK

Updated on May 12, 2016
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Livingsta is a writer who writes about anything that fascinates, provokes or interests her, always putting forth her best effort and focus.

There have been hundreds of rail accidents in the British Rail History. Below is a compilation of the worst rail accidents which were caused due to various reasons.

Accident at Potters Bar on 10th May 2002

Train Operator(s) - West Anglia Great Northern

Primary Cause(s) - Track defect

Secondary Cause(s) - Inadequate maintenance

Result - Derailment, collision with structure

No. Fatalities - 7

No. Injured - 76

On 10 May 2002, a railway accident occurred when a northbound train derailed at high speed. Part of the train ended up wedged between the station platforms and building structures.

A West Anglia Great Northern train service left King's Cross station at 12:45 bound for King's Lynn in Norfolk, via Cambridge. At 12:55, travelling at 97mph, the four-car Class 365 electric multiple unit (unit number: 365526) crossed over a set of points '2182A' just south of Potters Bar railway station. As the final coach travelled over the points, they failed, and this caused the rear wheels of the carriage to travel onto the adjacent line and ultimately derail, flipping it into the air. The momentum created carried the carriage into the station. One end of the carriage struck a bridge parapet, sending debris onto the road below. It then mounted and slid along the platform before coming to rest under the platform canopy at 45 degrees. The front three coaches remained upright, and came to a stop to the north of the station.

Six of the victims were travelling on board the train, while a seventh, Agnes Quinlivan, was killed by masonry falling from the bridge over Darkes Lane.

Four main factors contributed to the failure: the poor condition of the backdrive and other components; the loss of nuts from the right-hand end of the rear stretcher bar; the loss of nuts from the left-hand end of the front stretcher bar; and the fracture and disengagement of the lock stretcher bar

Accident at Great Heck, Selby on 28th February 2001

Train Operator(s) - Freightliner Heavy Haul, Great North Eastern Railway

Primary Cause(s) - Road vehicle driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - None

Result - Road vehicle collision, derailment, head on collision

No. Fatalities - 10

No. Injured - 82

On Wednesday 28 February 2001, the 04:45 Great North Eastern Railway passenger train left Newcastle on route to London Kings Cross. At approximately06:12, a Land Rover pulling a trailer loaded with a Renault car left the west bound carriageway of the M62 motorway at Great Heck, between junctions 34 and 35. The Land Rover and trailer continued along the steep road embankment and subsequently down a railway embankment and came to rest, fouling the Up mainline, on the south side of the M62 over-rail bridge at a point located at about 170 miles from London up the East Coast Main line. The road vehicle driver survived the incident and made a telephone call to the emergency services. As he was talking to the emergency services, the south bound GNER express passenger train struck the Land Rover. The train, which was travelling at around the line speed of 125mph, and consisted of a leading Driving Van Trailer, eight Mark IV passenger carriages, and a buffet car. The DVT became derailed at a point approximately 15 metres to the south of the impact and then travelled in a derailed condition, staying substantially in line and upright, for approximately 700 metres until it reached a set of points associated with sidings.

Accident at Hatfield on 17th October 2000

Train Operator(s) - Great North Eastern Railway

Primary Cause(s) - Broken rail

Secondary Cause(s) - Inadequate maintenance

Result - Derailment, collision with structure

No. Fatalities - 4

No. Injured - 70

A GreatNorthEasternRailway InterCity225 train bound for Leeds had left LondonKing'sCross at 12:10. It was travelling at over 115 miles per hour (185 km/h) when it derailed south of Hatfield station at 12:23. Four passengers were killed and a further 70 injured. Those killed were in the restaurant coach which struck an overheadline gantry following derailment.

The cause of the accident was due to the fracture and subsequent fragmentation of the high rail over a 35 metre length due to substantial transverse fatigue defects in the rail head. It states that these defects had their origins in gauge corner cracks, a form of rolling contact fatigue, which had developed on the rail surface.

Accident at Ladbroke Grove on 5th October 1999

Train Operator(s) - First Great Western, Thames Trains

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - Signal layout defect, inadequate training

Result - Signal passed at danger, head on collision, derailment, fire

No. Fatalities - 30

No. Injured - 400

The disaster occurred at at 08:08 and 58 seconds BST, when a three-car diesel multiple unit train operated by Thames Trains collided with a High Speed Train (8 coaches with a diesel power car at each end) of First Great Western at Ladbroke Grove Junction about two miles / 4km west of London Paddington Station. The trains collided almost head-on on the junction at a combined closing speed of approximately 130 mph / 205 km/h.

The first car of the Thames Train, the 0806 from Paddington to Bedwyn, Wiltshire, driven was totally destroyed in the impact, and the diesel fuel carried by this train at the start of its daily journeys ignited causing a series of fires in the wreckage, particularly in coach H at the front of the HST, which was completely burnt out. 31 people were killed in the disaster, including the drivers of both trains, and some 400 were injured, some very seriously. The of the disaster was identified as being due to Driver passing signal when it was showing a red signal (technically known as a SPAD - Signal Passed At Danger), at a point 563 metres before the impact point.

Accident at Winsford on 23rd June 1999

Train Operator(s) - Virgin Trains, First North Western

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - None, lack of ATP / TPWS

Result - Signal passed at danger, rear collision

No. Fatalities - 0

No. Injured - 29

On 23 June 1999, a VirginTrains electric express train from LondonEuston to GlasgowCentral ran into an empty four-carriage Pacer unit, injuring 31 people. The express had been travelling at about 110 mph, but driver Roy Eccles noticed the Pacer on the line and was able to decelerate to about 50 mph at the time of impact. Eccles was awarded a medal for his prompt action, which averted a much more serious accident.

The Pacer had passed a signalatdanger and run through a set of points, coming to a stand on the line on which the express was approaching. Its rear cab was destroyed in the crash along with a section of the passenger accommodation, and the coach bodies were displaced from their underframes. The collision took place on Railtrack owned infrastructure at Winsford South Junction just south of Winsford station in Cheshire.

Accident at Southall on 19th September 1997

Train Operator(s) - English Welsh & Scottish Railway, Great Western Trains

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - Inoperative equipment, lack of AWS

Result - Signal passed at danger, sidelong collision, derailment

No. Fatalities - 7

No. Injured - 150

The crash occurred after the 10:32 Great Western Trains Intercity passenger train from Swansea to London Paddington, worked by power cars 43173 + 47163 and operating with a defective Automatic Warning System (AWS), went through a red signal (SPAD) and collided with a freight train leaving its depot shortly before 13:20 local time.

If the AWS equipment on the High Speed Train (HST) passenger train had been working, the chance of the accident occurring would have been very substantially reduced, though not completely eliminated, since the AWS is only an advisory system. The driver's attention had been distracted and he did not observe the preceding signals visually but AWS would have given him a clear audible warning. Automatic train protection equipment would have almost certainly prevented the accident. The train was fitted with ATP but this was also switched off. At the time of the accident, the ATP equipment was not required to be switched on and had proved troublesome in service, and drivers were not required to be trained on it.

Following this accident and the Ladbroke Grove rail crash, the train operating company First Great Western now requires all its HST trains to have ATP switched on (if the equipment is faulty the train is taken out of service). The driver was initially charged with manslaughter but the case was dropped.

Accident at Watford on 8th August 1996

Train Operator(s) - North London Railways

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - Inadequate signalling arrangements, lack of ATP / TPWS

Result - Rear collision, signal passed at danger

No. Fatalities - 1

No. Injured - 69

A collision occurred between two trains approximately 700 m south of Watford Junction station on the West Coast Main Line at 17:24 on Thursday 8 August 1996. A northbound passenger train that had left London Euston station at 17:04 and was travelling along the Down Slow line was struck by a southbound ECS train that was progressing across the connections linking the Up Slow to the Up Fast lines. The ECS train was traversing the crossover linking the Down Slow with the Up Fast when the collision occurred.


The reason for the accident was that the driver failed to react correctly to two signals displaying caution aspects when approaching the red signal that protected the junction at Watford South. When that signal came into his view, his train was travelling at about 110 kmlh (68 milelh) and he made a full brake application. The distance between the point of the brake application and the red signal was insufficient to permit the train to stop at the signal and it eventually came to a stand 203 m (222 yds) beyond the signal, foul of the route set for the ECS train

Accident at Ais Gill on 31st January 1995

Train Operator(s) - British Rail (Provincial)

Primary Cause(s) - Landslip

Secondary Cause(s) - Inadequate communication

Result - Derailment, head on collision

No. Fatalities - 1

No. Injured - 30

A Class 156 Super-Sprinter formed the 1626 Carlisle to Leeds via Settle service. 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 1169ft 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 telling them of the incident. Unfortunately 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.

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 headlights 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.

Accident at Cowden on 15th October 1994

Train Operator(s) - British Rail (Network South Central)

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - Fog, driver distraction, lack of radio communication

Result - Signal passed at danger, head on collision, derailment

No. Fatalities - 5

No. Injured - 13

The Cowden rail crash occurred on 15October 1994, around 350 metres southeast of CowdenStation in the English county of Kent. There was a head-oncollision between two trains in heavy fog after the driver of a northbound train ran past a red signal and entered a singleline section.

Five people were killed and thirteen were injured. The guard of the northbound train, who had ambitions to become a driver, was in the driver's cab at the time of the collision, in defiance of the regulations. It is thought that his presence may have contributed to the accident and there were even suspicions that he may have been at the controls. This will never be known, however, as he and both drivers were killed in the collision, and the front ends of both trains were so badly damaged that it was not possible to ascertain the positions of the crew in the northbound train. Two passengers, a couple travelling in the leading coach of the northbound train, were also killed.

Accident at Severn Tunnel on 7th December 1991

Train Operator(s) - British Rail (Provincial), British Rail (Intercity)

Primary Cause(s) - No firm conclusion

Secondary Cause(s) - None

Result - Rear collision

No. Fatalities - 0

No. Injured - 186

The SevernTunnelrailaccident occurred on 7 December 1991 when 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, the driver was advised of a signal failure and given permission to proceed at caution. Three miles into the tunnel, the train was struck in the rear by a Class 155 Super-Sprinter travelling from Portsmouth to Cardiff. 185 passengers were injured, including five seriously, but none fatally.

Because track circuits were unreliable in the exceptionally damp tunnel environment 10 to 20 million gallons of water are pumped out per day, axle counters were used instead. The official report into the accident 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.

Accident at Stafford on 4th August 1990

Train Operator(s) - British Rail (Provincial), British Rail (Intercity)

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - Driver intoxicated

Result - Rear collision

No. Fatalities - 1

No. Injured - 36

A train driver was killed and 36 injured at Stafford station in a two-train crash. The 23:36 empty coaching stock train from Stoke-on-Trent to Birmingham Soho Depot ran into the rear of the 22:18 express passenger train from ManchesterPiccadilly to Penzance, which was standing in platform 4 at Staffordstation. The empty train had been given permission to pass a signal at 'danger' and draw up behind the express in order to clear the way for another train.The driver of the empty train, who was the only fatality, was considered not to have kept a good lookout. This was possibly compounded by excessive working hours and by the alcohol that was subsequently found in his bloodstream.

Accident at Purley on 4th March 1989

Train Operator(s) - British Railways (Southern Region)

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - Inadequate signalling arrangements, lack of ATP / TPWS

Result - Signal passed at danger, rear collision, derailment

No. Fatalities - 5

No. Injured - 88

The driver missed a warning signal in advance so that there was insufficient time to stop when he saw the red signal. He would have received an AWS warning, but the audible warning was the same for double yellow, yellow and red signals. As a result, on these busy lines, drivers are constantly cancelling AWS warnings and it becomes routine habit. The problem had been recognised for many years but no technical solution had been found at reasonable cost.

A notable feature of the accident was that the driver, Robert Morgan, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and sentenced to 12 months in prison plus 6 months suspended, despite the known deficiency of the AWS system. He had an exemplary record over 22 years, but became the only driver in UK railway history to be imprisoned for such an error. The driver's sentence was later cut to four months upon appeal, and on 12 December 2007 his convictions for manslaughter were overturned by the Court of Appeal, ruling the conviction "unsafe". Lord Latham commented in his judgement that "something about the infrastructure of this particular junction was causing mistakes to be made" due to new evidence showing that there had been four previous SPADs at the same location in the five years prior to the rail crash

Accident at Clapham Junction on 12th December 1988

Train Operator(s) - British Railways (Southern Region)

Primary Cause(s) - Wiring defect

Secondary Cause(s) - None

Result - Rear collision, derailment, head on collision

No. Fatalities - 35

No. Injured - 415

The first collision occurred after the driver of the 07:18 from Basingstoke to Waterloo saw a signal in front of him abruptly change from green to red. As required, the driver stopped his train at the next signal post telephone to report to the signalman at Clapham Junction 'A' signal box that his train had passed a red signal. He was advised there was no fault and that he was free to proceed. The driver told the signalman that he intended to make a formal report when he reached Waterloo. As the driver hung up the phone his train was hit from behind at a speed of about 40 mph (65 km/h) by the late-running 06:14 from Poole, running under false 'proceed' signals.

A second side-on collision consequent on the first involved the second, third and fourth coaches of an empty train leaving Clapham Junction being hit by the wreckage of the Poole train, causing derailment and separation from the first carriage. A fourth train approaching also under false clear signals at the time managed to stop about 70 yd (60 m) clear of the rear of the Poole train.

Pupils from the adjacent EmanuelSchool were first on the scene of the disaster and helped save the lives of many. They were commended for their service by the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Accident at St Helens Central on 11th November 1988

Train Operator(s)  - British Railways (London Midland Region)

Primary Cause(s) - Insecure train equipment

Secondary Cause(s) - Inadequate maintenance, vandalism

Result - Collision with debris, train equipment out of gauge, derailment, collision with structure

No. Fatalities - 1

No. Injured - 16

A train driver was killed and 18 passengers hurt when a commuter train ploughed into a bridge after leaving the tracks at St. Helens, Merseyside. "When the train arrived at St Helens Central Station, a number of passengers alighted and several more joined and the train departed on time at 23.15. As it reached the point where the Up Goods line intersects the Down Main line, the leading bogie became derailed to the left causing the driving cab to strike the bridge abutment, crushing the driver as. While carrying out his ticket collecting duties, [the senior railman] had noted sparks from beneath the train before he heard the noise of the impact with the bridge. All the passengers who were injured were travelling in the leading car and several went forward to try to help the driver before they left the train.

Accident at Lockington on 26th July 1986

Train Operator(s) - British Railways (Eastern Region)

Primary Cause(s) - Road vehicle driver error

Secondary Cause(s) -  None

Result - Road vehicle collision, derailment, train split

No. Fatalities - 9

No. Injured - 59

As the 09.33 Bridlington to Hull train travelling at about 50 mile/h closely approached the crossing, which is of the type known as an Automatic Open Crossing Remotely monitored , at which trains initiate the steady yellow and twin red flashing road traffic-light signals, the van was driven onto the crossing against the red lights. The left hand buffer of the train (in the direction of travel) struck the near side of the van behind the passenger seat and as the left hand lifeguard and leading wheel ran into the floor of the van it was ripped into five pieces and slewed to the left. The left hand leading wheel of the train attempted to run up over the van's axle and both leading wheels of the train were derailed to the left as they departed from the crossing.

Derailment was then progressive as the wheels ran down to the left of the embankment on which the line runs. The leading coach jack-knifed, turned on its side, and was dragged along backwards with the leading end of the second coach being forced over the adjacent track. The two following coaches were both derailed but remained upright.

Accident at Invergowrie on 22nd October 1979

Train Operator(s) - British Railways (Scottish Region)

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - None

Result - Signal passed at danger, rear collision, derailment, train split

No. Fatalities - 5

No. Injured - 51

The 08:44 passenger service from Glasgow Queen Street to Dundee, despite running late and experiencing technical difficulties, left Invergowrie station without incident. However, the brake on the leading bogie of the Class 25 locomotive was binding, although the driver carried on as Dundee was only a few miles away. As the train was running along InvergowrieBay a traction motor caught fire and the train (with five carriages) was stopped.

Approximately ten minutes later, the stationary train was run into at around 60 mph by the Class 47 hauled 09:35 express from Glasgow to Aberdeen. The impact threw the last two coaches of the Dundee train over the sea wall and into the Firth of Tay, though fortunately the tide was out. Both passengers in the rear carriage and the driver and secondman of the Aberdeen train were killed instantly. A further passenger died later and a total of 51 people were injured

Accident at Moorgate on 28th February 1975

Train Operator(s) - London Transport

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - Inadequate signalling arrangements

Result - Buffer stop collision, telescoping

No. Fatalities - 43

No. Injured - 74

The Moorgate tube crash was a railway disaster on the London Underground, which occurred at 8:46am on 28 February 1975.

A southbound train on the Northern Line (Highbury Branch) crashed into the tunnel end beyond the platform at Moorgate station. Forty-three people were killed at the scene, either from the impact or from suffocation, and several more subsequently died from severe injuries; the greatest loss of life in peacetime on the London Underground, and the second greatest loss of life on the entire London Transport system (the first being the 7 July 2005 London bombings). The cause of the incident was never conclusively determined

The crash had two consequences for the London Underground. Firstly, the southern end of the Highbury Branch platforms (where the crash happened) was extensively rebuilt. Secondly, automatic systems for stopping trains were introduced into dead-ends on the tube, regardless of whether the driver brakes the train. These systems are known as Moorgate control

Accident at Nuneaton on 6th June 1975

Train Operator(s) - British Railways (London Midland Region)

Primary Cause(s) - Excessive speed

Secondary Cause(s) - Inadequate signage

Result - Derailment, collision with structure

No. Fatalities - 6

No. Injured - 38

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 speed restriction of 20mph for a distance of just over a mile, owing to a track remodelling scheme. Approximately a mile before the restriction, there was a board giving advance warning of the restriction. This board should have been illuminated, but was not. The driver claimed that he wrongly assumed that this meant the restriction had been lifted, and so did not slow the train. The board marking the actual start of the restriction, however, was lit, but by the time the driver saw this, it was too late.

Despite an emergency brake application, the train entered the 20mph restriction at a speed estimated at around 70mph 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)

Accident at Morpeth on 7th May 1969

Train Operator(s) - British Railways (Eastern Region)

Primary Cause(s) - Excessive speed

Secondary Cause(s) - None

Result - Derailment

No. Fatalities - 6

No. Injured - 21

On a dark, fine, night, with good visibility, and running under clear colour light signals, the driver had relaxed his customary concentration and had allowed his mind to he distracted for a short time while his train was closely approaching Morpeth at the full line speed of 80 mph. As a result of this distraction he failed to brake the train in time to enter the Morpeth Curve, the speed round which is restricted to 40 mph, at that greatly reduced speed and the train entered the curve over twice as fast as it should have done. He was brought to his senses just after the train entered the curve and he at once braked it heavily, but the vehicle first in rear of the locomotive, a bogie brake van, derailed to the outside of the curve as it was on the point of overturning, and the rest of the train followed it into derailment and came to a stand in five parts and with most of its coaches very badly damaged.

Accident at Hither Green on 5th November 1967

Train Operator(s) - British Railways (Southern Region)

Primary Cause(s) - Broken rail

Secondary Cause(s) - None

Result - Derailment

No. Fatalities - 49

No. Injured - 78

The accident was found to be due to a broken rail. At a rail joint, a fatigue crack through the first bolt hole in the running-on rail had progressively developed and a triangular piece of rail had broken out. It is probable that several previous trains had successfully negotiated the gap.

The track in general was heavily trafficked by a dense outer suburban service of multiple unit trains, all of them with nose-suspended traction motors imposing high impact forces on any imperfection in the running surface of the rails. The running-off sleeper at the joint had previously failed and been replaced with a shallower timber replacement, and the replacement had not been well packed. The running-on rail was supported on an undisturbed concrete sleeper, giving a very rigid support, so that successive trains dipped into, and then struck, the running-on rail end, stressing it severely. The cyclical stress promoted growth of the fatigue crack.

The train which actually derailed was fitted with a special suspension to limit sway of the bodies due to tight clearances on tunnels on its route on the Tonbridge–Hastings line, and this caused very high wheel forces at track irregularities; this may be the reason why this particular train (rather than the trains immediately previous) derailed.

The speed limit had been raised from 75 mph to 90 mph in July 1967, and viewed in retrospect it is clear that resources for basic track maintenance were overwhelmed.

Accident at Lewisham on 4th December 1957

Train Operator(s) - British Railways (Southern Region)

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - Fog, lack of AWS

Result - Signal passed at danger, rear collision, derailment, bridge collapse

No. Fatalities - 90

No. Injured - 176

The 4.56 p.m. express passenger train from Cannon Street to Ramsgate, via Folkestone, formed of 11 bogie coaches hauled by a "Pacific" type engine, passed the Red aspect of the Down Through colour light inner home signal of St. Johns signal box, and then after travelling 138 yards it collided at about 30 m.p.h. with the rear of the 5.18 p.m. 10-coach electric passenger train from Charing Cross to Hayes (Mid Kent line) which was standing at the Parks Bridge Junction colour light home signal. This accident led to the introduction of the Automatic Warning System (AWS) to protect against such collisions

Accident at Harrow and Wealdstone on 8th October 1952

Train Operator(s) - British Railways (London Midland Region)

Primary Cause(s) - Driver error

Secondary Cause(s) - Fog, lack of AWS, poor rolling stock strength

Result - Signal passed at danger, rear collision, derailment, head on collision, collision with structure, bridge collapse

No. Fatalities - 112

No. Injured - 340

The crash, which took place at 08.19, was a double collision involving three trains. The 07.31 local passenger train from Tring to Euston station, London was standing at the up main platform of Harrow & Wealdstone station when it was hit in the rear at 50–60 mph by the 20.15 express sleeper train from Perth, Scotland.

Seconds after the first collision, the double-headed 08.00 express from London Euston to Liverpool and Manchester, which was traveling at about 50 miles per hour (80 km/h), ran into the wreckage strewn across the down main line. Its locomotives were deflected to the left, ploughed across the down fast platform and came to rest across the electrified local lines opposite. Its carriages, which overran the wreckage from the first collision, brought down part of the station footbridge. All six lines through the station were blocked by the collision.

Rescue work took several days, as survivors had to be extricated from the piled-up wreckage of three trains. 112 people died and 340 were injured in the accident. The dead included 108 passengers (including 39 railway employees en route to their jobs) and four on-duty railwaymen.

The first collision was attributed to the Perth express passing a colour light distant railway signal at "caution" and the outer and inner semaphore home signals at "danger". The reason for this error is unknown, as the driver and fireman of the Perth express were killed. The crewmen on the down express were unable to avoid the second collision.

Accident at Quintinshill on 22nd May 1915

Train Operator(s) - Caledonian Railway

Primary Cause(s) - Signaller error, failure to operate rule 55

Secondary Cause(s) - Gas lighting

Result - Head on collision, derailment, fire

No. Fatalities - 227

No. Injured - 246

Double collision between passenger trains at Quintinshill, by which 224 passengers and three servants were killed, and 242 passengers and four servants injured. This collision was found to be due to neglect of rules on the part of two signalmen at the Quintinshill signalbox.

This disastrous collision was thus due to want of discipline on the part of the signalmen, first by changing duty at an unauthorised hour, which caused Tinsley to be preoccupied in writing up the Train Register Book, and so diverted his attention from his proper work; secondly by Meakin handing over the duty in a very lax manner; and, thirdly, by both signalmen neglecting to carry out various rules specially framed for preventing accidents due to forgetfulness on the part of signalmen. This stands as the worst accident in British railway history.


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    • profile image

      David Murray 

      3 years ago

      A very good book has been written about Quintinshill. Both signalmen you have mentioned went to prison in 1915.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      many more preventable deaths committed !! get your facts right your omitting many deaths from electrocution at the hands of BRITISH RAIL

    • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Robert, thank you so much for reading, and for the valuable information you have shared here.! :-)

    • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      @Brownlickie: Thanks a lot for reading and dropping these encouraging words.

      About adding this as a link to your writing, you will always have an option to add hyperlinks, or make hyperlinks. That should help you do that.

      Hope this helps!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      very intensive investigation work and an excellent gathering of facts. It is also well written and I would like to add it as a link to my own trains stories ,however I don't know how to do it regards brownlickie

    • giirii profile image


      10 years ago

      hmm semss li8k u had wrkd a lot good wrk


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