Paddington: Ten Years On

The crash at Ladbroke Grove in 1999 was one of the worst railroad accidents in recent UK history. In the accident, a three-car train accelerated for 700 yards past a red signal and crashed into another train. Thirty-one people died and more than 400 were injured. This article examines whether this type of accident could happen again. In 2006, Network Rail admitted in court to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The charge listed inadequate signal sighting distances and the obscuring of part of a signal. The court criticized Network Rail's predecessor, Railtrack, for failing to ensure the convening of a signal sighting committee in the wake of six Spads (signal passed at danger) on the approaches to Paddington between 1996 and 1999. A government inquiry into the accident made 74 safety recommendations. All the recommendations relating to infrastructure were fully implemented. Although Ladbroke Grove remains one of the most complex areas of signaling in the country, major changes were completed in 2006. Flank protection was fitted to the points that would take a train away from any possible head-on collision. Approach speeds were reduced. Fiber optic signals (later replaced with light emitting diode lights) were fitted, which were brighter than conventional lighting. Large numbered track signs were fitted and clutter removed. A train protection and warning system has now been fitted nationwide that automatically applies brakes to a train that passes a signal at danger, using sensors mounted between the rails. This has dramatically reduced the number of Spads. In response to one of the key inquiry recommendations, the Rail Safety and Standards Board was established to create industry standards. Although some detractors contend that more needs to be done, the consensus seems to be that railroad safety has improved since the Ladbroke Grove accident.


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  • Accession Number: 01145113
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 28 2009 11:00PM