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12 December  
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1988: 35 dead in Clapham rail collision
Up to 35 people have died and 100 others have been injured after three trains were involved in a collision during morning rush hour in south London.

Two commuter trains carrying an estimated 1,300 passengers between them collided shortly after 0800 GMT at Clapham Junction - Europe's busiest railway junction.

A third empty train later ran into the wreckage killing some passengers who had survived the first crash.

Surgery at the scene

Many passengers are still trapped as fire crews are cutting through the tangled carriages to reach them.

Emergency services have said the extent of the injuries mean some passengers have received operations at the scene.

At nearby St George's Hospital in Tooting staff are on emergency alert as coaches and ambulances wait to take those needing medical care to its new accident and emergency unit.

Passengers well enough to leave by foot, stood by the rail track and were described as "visibly shocked and distressed".

Many have been taken to a nearby school for first aid treatment.

Witnesses, unable to reach survivors because of the extent of the wreckage, have reported seeing appalling injuries.

They described how carriages were sent hurtling into the air before crashing back down again after the collision.

'Signalling failures'

The accident took place when the 0718 from Basingstoke to Waterloo approached the junction.

Early reports indicate it was slowing for signals when the 0614 from Poole, travelling from Bournemouth due to track problems, ran into the back of it.

Experts have said this train would have been travelling at about 40mph.

Shortly afterwards an empty train leaving Clapham junction hit the wreckage.

British Rail has said initial reports indicate the crash was caused by signalling failures.

The Transport Secretary Paul Cannon is understood to be on his way to the scene of the tragedy.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has promised a full public inquiry.

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scene of rail crash
Firefighters are still trying to reach commuters trapped inside the wreckage



In Context
The Clapham rail crash was the worst train accident of recent times.

The Hidden inquiry into the crash said the primary cause was "wiring errors" made by a rail worker who had had one day off in 13 weeks and that British Rail work practices were to blame. It made 93 recommendations for safety improvements, including a limit on the hours signalmen were allowed to work.

It also recommended the installation of automatic train protection (ATP) for the whole rail network. The ATP equipment governs the speed of trains and automatically stops them at red lights.

But the �0m price tag was considered too high by British Rail and the government, immediately prior to privatisation in 1993.

In 1998 after the Paddington rail crash, Deputy PM John Prescott said "money was no object" in upgrading railway safety systems.

An inquiry led by Lord Cullen into fatal crashes at Southall in 1997 and at Ladbroke Grove in 1999 once again called for ATP to be installed by 2010 on the railways.

But in 2002 the Transport Secretary, Stephen Byers, said the government would not commit to the �n needed to install ATP. However, the cheaper, simpler Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) has since been installed across the network - although it cannot stop trains going through a red light if they are travelling at more than 75mph.

I was there
I was on the 6.30am from Bournemouth seated in the fifth carriage.

I will never forget the scene of devastation as we were helped from the train by the fire brigade. On that day the emergency services proved, to me, that we have the best and most efficient emergency services in the world.

Life for me went on and for that I'm grateful but I still remember and thank God that I survived.

To my fellow commuters of that day and to the families of those who lost their lives I still remember and also say a prayer on the anniversary.
Colin Day, Malaysia

Stories From 12 Dec


 
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