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4 March  
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1989: Six die in Purley rail crash
Six people have died and 80 have been injured, some of them seriously, in a train crash at Purley in Surrey.

The accident happened at 1339 GMT when a train travelling from Horsham to London was hit from behind by another train going from Littlehampton to London.

The Littlehampton train careered down the embankment into gardens below. Several people were trapped for hours on board, unable to get out because the doors were blocked.

The two trains should have been two-and-a-half minutes apart. At least two signals should have warned the Littlehampton driver there was a train ahead.

Serious injuries

The crash prompted a red alert at the Mayday hospital in Croydon.

Fifty-two of the injured passengers were brought here. Ten have been assessed as seriously hurt, five of these are critically injured.

The Chairman of British Rail, Sir Robert Reid, has promised a thorough investigation: "We shall look through everything to make sure we know exactly what's happened."

It was such a shock. It was like the train derailed and there were bodies and glass flying
Crash survivor Tanya Lawrence
John Lawrence and his daughter were travelling in the rear carriage of the front train: "We heard this huge impact. Following that it was mainly a case of sort of flying debris and bodies flying through the carriage as well."

His daughter, Tanya, said: "It was such a shock. It was like the train derailed and there were bodies and glass flying."

Some local residents were working in their gardens when the train came crashing down the bank.

Kevin Williams was one of them. He said: "We were trying to break glass to get people out. We had a section which was a first class section of the train, which we had to break the doors off to get people out."

Investigators from the Clapham rail disaster in December 1988 have been to the scene of today's accident.

The Clapham crash was caused by faulty resignalling work the previous weekend. Some residents have reported seeing maintenance workers on the track at Purley last weekend.

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Watch/Listen
Coaches lie on an embankment
Several people were trapped in the train carriages

Purley crash aftermath and eye-witness accounts



In Context
The driver of the Littlehampton train, Robert Morgan, was jailed for four months for manslaughter after admitting passing a red signal.

Some experts suggested the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system could have prevented the Purley crash. It automatically stops a train passing a danger signal.

The Hidden inquiry into the Clapham rail crash published in September 1989 recommended ATP should be installed across the rail network, but the cost proved prohibitive.

The government opted for a cheaper safety system, the European Train Control System, which is to become Europe's standard train protection equipment.

But reports in 2002 suggest the 2010 deadline for its implementation has been abandoned and it will be 2015 before the whole network is covered.

Stories From 4 Mar


 
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