Friday, April 1, 2016

The Moorgate Train Crash

In 1863, the London Underground was the very first metropolitan subterranean railway system in the world and the idea of such a type of transportation system had been proposed in the 1830s. Permission for the construction had been granted only in 1854. The first trains had been powered by steam and it was only towards 1890s that the complete system had been switched to electricity which became the clean and environmentally friendly travel which commuters got accustomed to, in various main cities all over the world.

Over a period of years and decades, the London Underground or Tube had grown and expanded, covering the entire area of London and selected areas of the Home Counties. The London Underground, one line which went from east to west, now comprised of 11 various line and the key areas of the total network was Kings Cross. This was the scene of a shattering fire in late 1987 which brought into focus the out-dated safety measures of that time which was not the only tragedy to occur in the London Underground network. The incident took place on February 28, 1975, when the 0838 Northern Line Underground train had left half a minute late from Drayton Park with 300 passengers to Moorgate on the Highbury branch.

Worst Peace Time Disaster in the Tunnel

As the train moved towards its destination at 0846, it failed to slow down and travelling at 30mph-40mph, the six-vehicle trained had entered the overrun tunnel at Moorgate terminus. The Moorgate train crash in London Underground was the worst peace time disaster which had taken place within the tunnel just outside Moorgate Station. The station was left in total darkness, engulfed by soot and dust. First responders to the scene at first thought that a 4 car train had somewhat overshot the platform and would have to be shunted back into position.

Only on working along the tunnel did they realise the gravity of the emergency. The first two and a half cars of the train had been telescoped by the force of the impact into half their actual length. The second car had also lodged beneath the first and the third had gone over the second, colliding with the first. After seeing the trio of cards wedged in a mess of mangled metal, it had been a shocking spectacle. It took the rescue operation consisting of over 1600 emergency personnel almost a week to complete their task. They were also accompanied by firemen, police and ambulance crew together with 16 doctors and endless number of volunteers and helpers. Over 13 hours after the crash, the last of the 74 injured passengers were removed from the scene.

Observation- Driver Sat Upright & Unaware of Passing Scheduled Stop

The final person of the 43 fatalities to be removed from the scene of mishap was the train driver, a 56 year old father of two known as Leslie Newson. Newson had been killed together with 42 passengers and a further 74 passenger had been injured and in need of treatment in the hospital. When the engineers and the investigator examined what was left of the train to start their analysis, various considerations to the cause had been eliminated one after the other.

 On testing, all of the vital components of the train as well as the systems, it was found to be working as anticipated. Anything which seemed to be defective was determined as the direct result of the impact and not the cause of it. On post-mortem examination of Newson, there were no signs of cardiac problem or a condition like epilepsy. When he was found there were no indications that Newson had done anything to prevent injury to himself and his hand was still holding the brake.

A week after the crash some curious facts was observed that another guard that was Newsons’ train had also failed to stop at another station. Passenger who had been waiting for the fatal train observed that the driver sat upright and looked directly ahead as if he was unaware of passing through a scheduled stop.

Cause of Crash yet a Mystery

The driver seemed to be in good health and had not consumed any alcohol or drugs and was considered as a doubtful suicide person. He had worked for London Underground since 1969 and was said to be a careful and conscientious driver. Investigators had a clear idea regarding what had occurred, the train had failed to stop at Moorgate and had been going too fast for installed safety procedure of the time but do not know why it had occurred.

The question in everyone’ mind is why did a commuter train fail to stop when it was supposed to when both the driver and the train had no known issues? The cause of the crash continues to be a mystery. Forty years on, the site of the incident seems to bear no mark of it and the causes of the crash are not clearer now than they were at that time.

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