Fatal train crash probe to focus on points

24th February 2007

The scene of the fatal train crash at Grayrigg, Cumbria

A dramatic mobile phone image taken inside the carriage by a passenger

Police said their investigation into the Cumbria train crash was today centred on a set of points at the scene where maintenance men have been working over the past week.

British Transport Chief Superintendent Martyn Ripley, speaking at the scene of the crash which killed one passenger, said: "We are amazed we did not have fatalities at the time, we have been very fortunate. It is little short of a miracle.

"We have five people classed as having serious injuries - they are causing us concern."

Chief Supt Ripley also confirmed maintenance had been carried out on the track in Grayrigg, Cumbria, in the past week.

Speaking from the scene of the accident, Chief Supt Martyn Ripley, from British Transport Police, said: "As you can see we are dealing with a major incident here which has happened overnight on the 5.15 from London Euston travelling north at about 7.30pm.

"It was involved in an incident here where it left the track, we had 100 passengers on board and at the time there were no fatalities.

"There were 22 people who were injured and taken to hospital and the other injuries were not so serious."

Mr Ripley said that one woman, who later died in hospital, was 80 years old but said further details would not be released until her next of kin had all been informed.

He said: "There were five other people on the train who were classed as serious and they have been taken to various hospitals.

"We are now working throughout the train with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and with Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate and other officials from British Transport Police who have actually been looking at the scene in close detail now we have got daylight.

"Our inquiries have led us to believe that a set of points could be significant in this inquiry although there is a lot more work to do and we are waiting for further expert opinion.

"We are looking for them to give us an early indication of what caused this accident although it is far too early to tell at this point."

A high-speed Pendolino tilting train similar to the one that crashed

Asked if there would be a criminal investigation in to the accident, which happened as the tilting train reportedly reached speeds of around 95mph, Chief Supt Ripley said: "It is far too early for us to say.

"We have got experts at the scene that have been working with us. It would seem at the moment we will be doing a lot more work with them. This morning at first light we have been able to get on to the scene.

"Our investigation is under way. There is going to be a lot of work we are going to have to undertake. I anticipate that will go on for a number of days.

"There were maintenance teams working in the area in the days leading up to the crash. It was routine.

"When we arrived here a lot of people were in shock. But they were able to get away from the train.

"We now know that five people are in a serious condition and an 80-year-old lady died in the night.

But the majority were able to walk away."

Cumbrian Ambulance Service spokesman Rick Shaw told Sky News that RAF helicopters were used in the aftermath of the crash to get injured passengers treatment as quickly as possible. He said: "It was very calm at the scene - it was very well organised by our colleagues.

"We used RAF rescue to get a significant number of people flown to specialised centres from the scene. Their injuries are at the moment unclear. The most important thing was to get people the type of treatment they needed."

One of the first rescuers to reach the accident described the scene of devastation which greeted him.

Ian Garnett, watch manager with Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The initial problem we had was with the address as it was quite vague and railways tend to run through remote areas with poor access.

"We were told the accident had happened somewhere between Oxenholme and Tebay, which is a fair old stretch, but despite this we managed to locate it pretty quickly.

"When we arrived, the only light was coming from one carriage and when we approached over the hill we initially only saw two carriages and thought it was a small train which, at the time, was a relief.

"But it quickly became apparent that it was a much more major incident there were so many carriages involved."

Mr Garnett said there was no screaming or shouting and all the passengers remained calm with most of them staying inside the carriages.

He said conditions were rainy, dark and cold. He added: "The first two carriages were where the most injured people were located.

"The driver was locked inside his cabin for around an hour after we arrived and we had to use cutting equipment to free him.

"He was talking, but he had numerous injuries including head injuries and he also seemed to have a problem with his neck."

Mr Garnett described how he climbed inside the carriage which had fallen on its side and had to walk on the luggage rails to stand upright.

He said passengers were very cool and calm and that a male medical student who was travelling on the train had helped treat the injured people. Local farmers also went to the scene and provided their homes for the walking wounded to be treated in.

He said he expected the lifting equipment, which will be used to move the train, to come on to the site later today, although it is thought it will be several days before the wreckage is cleared.

Former Tory Cabinet minister John Redwood called for the Government to ensure that seatbelts were fitted on trains.

Mr Redwood said lessons had not been learned since 2004, when seven people died in a rail crash near Ufton Nervet - part of his Wokingham constituency.

"How many more people have to die or be injured, before the Government brings train safety closer to road safety?" he said. "There should be an immediate requirement that all luggage on a train is secured behind luggage doors or nets, just as it is on an aircraft.

"Anyone sensible puts heavy luggage in the self-contained boot of a car to avoid it injuring them in a crash. This requirement would not cost that much to implement and is fundamental. Loose luggage on a train can injure people badly."

Mr Redwood added: "There should be a requirement that all current express trains should have seat belts fitted, and all new trains of any speed should have seat belts. People can be thrown around the carriage when a train derails at high speed, causing injury.

"Of course we need to know what caused this latest accident. But before we know that we surely can see that it would avoid future injuries and fatalities if we secured the luggage and people on fast trains?"


As day broke, the devastation left by the crash was revealed. Several carriages and the engine plunged down an embankment when the train derailed at about 95mph.

Passengers spoke of the "terrifying" moment when the train careered off the track. One carriage was forced up into the air at sharp angle.

The engine was left lying on its side facing back down the track in the opposite direction to the carriages.

Several carriages came to rest on their sides after tumbling down the embankment. The first and second bore the brunt of the impact.

Cumbria Police say they are unsure as to how the engine came to double back on itself. The train driver was one of those injured.

Some passengers were trapped when the carriages of the Pendolino tilting train flipped over. Emergency crews worked in torrential rain and pitch darkness to free them.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Feb 24th, 2007 at 06:02 AM..