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Ladbroke Grove rail disaster

The Ladbroke Grove rail disaster was a British rail accident that happened on 5 October 1999 in which thirty-one people died.

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 (locomotive) 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 by Michael Hodder, 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 immediate cause of the disaster was identified as being due to Driver Hodder passing signal SN109 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. However, the public enquiry conducted over the next year by Lord Cullen identified many contributory factors, blaming Thames Trains' driver training procedures (Driver Hodder had only qualified to drive trains two months earlier), and Railtracks' Great Western Zone (who were responsible for the maintenance of the track and signalling) who had not taken appropriate action in view of the fact that there had been eight SPADs at signal SN109 in the preceding six years (although all the trains stopped before fouling the following junction), or taken sufficient action in response to complaints from train drivers about the visibility of various signals, particularly SN109. The Health and Safety Executive's Railway Inspectorate was also criticised for its inspection procedures, and the Railtrack signalling centre staff at Slough were criticised for not sending a radio "emergency all stop" signal immediately it was realised that the Thames Train had passed a signal at danger - they were expecting the train to stop shortly after the signal as had happened with the earlier SPADs at that signal, and it is not known if the radio signal eventually sent was received before the impact 33 seconds later.

The disaster happened at the point where the main line from London to South Wales and the West of England switches from two lines in each direction, carrying fast and slow trains, to multiple lines signalled to allow trains to travel in either direction, in and out of the platforms of Paddington Station. The track layout had been modified in this way by British Rail in the early 1990s, but subsequently the line had been electrified to allow the new Heathrow Express service to operate from 1994, and the new overhead power lines obstructed the view of various signals. Signal SN109 had a particularly restricted view as there was a road bridge over the railway line a few hundred metres before the gantry upon which SN109, together with four other signals, was mounted. The design of signal SN109 was non-standard, in that it was shaped like a reverse "L", with the red lamp on the horizontal arm rather than near the top of the signal as is standard, and it is thought that this, together with the bright sun rising in the east behind the train and shining directly into the signal lenses may have misled the inexperienced Driver Hodder into thinking that the signal was showing a proceed aspect. The On-Train Data Recorder showed that he had reacted correctly to earlier caution signals.

This was the second major accident on the Great Western Main Line in less than eighteen months, the other being the Southall rail disaster of May 1998, just a few miles further west, and this severely damaged public confidence in the safety of Britain's privatised railway system.

List of fatalities

The following people lost their lives in the Ladbroke Grove disaster:
Charlotte Andersen, 32, from Stillwater, OK, USA, resident in London, international products manager.
Derek Antonowitz, 25, from South Africa, resident in Willesden Green, London, computer consultant.
Anthony Beeton, 47, Civil Servant in the Northern Ireland Office.
Ola Bratlie, 26, from Gavdik, Norway, telecommunications engineer.
Roger Brown, 44, from east London, software engineer.
Jennifer Carmichael, 22, from Newbury, Berkshire, bar worker.
Brian Cooper, 52, from Hayes, London, (Driver of the HST)
Robert Cotton, 41, of Dursley, Gloucestershire, school caretaker and trade union official.
Sam Di Lieto, 24, from Bloomsbury, central London.
Shaun Donoghue, 45, of New Cross, London, statistician.
Neil Dowse, 39, from Forest Hill, London, sheet-metal worker.
Cyril Elliott, 41, from Beckenham, Kent, management consultant.
Fiona Grey, 33, from Dumbarton, IT consultant.
Juliet Groves, 27, from Shepherd's Bush, west London, accountant.
Sun Yoon Hah, 25, of London, barrister.
Michael Hodder, 31, from Reading, Berkshire, (Driver of the Thames Train)
Elaine Kellow, 24, of Paddington, IT worker.
Martin King, company director.
Antonio Lacovara, 24, from Hither Green, London, graphic designer.
Rasak Ladipo, 33, from Muswell Hill, London, computer expert.
Matthew Macaulay, 26, from New Zealand living in Clapham, S. London, information technician.
Delroy Manning, 39, from Lewisham, plasterer.
John Northcott, 24, from Leyton, east London, IT worker.
John Raisin, 61, from Painswick, Gloucestershire, recruitment consultant.
David Roberts, 35, of Swindon, Wiltshire.
Allan Stewart, 28, from Auckland, New Zealand, resident in Fulham, accountant.
Khawar Tauheed, 44, from Romford, Essex, microbiologist.
Muthulingam Thayaparan, 26, of Tooting, south London.
Andrew Thompson, 52, from Colchester, Essex.
Bryan Tompson, 61, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, freelance engineer.
Simon Wood, 50, from Liss, Hampshire, charity project worker.

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