Hither Green rail crash

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Template:Use dmy dates Template:Infobox rail accident The Hither Green rail crash was a train derailment that occurred near Hither Green maintenance depot, between Hither Green and Grove Park railway stations at 21:16 on 5 November 1967. It was a busy Sunday evening service from Template:Rws to Template:Rws and there were standing passengers on the train. Of the twelve coaches, eleven were derailed and four turned onto their sides resulting in 49 fatalities and 78 people injured.

The derailment was found to be due to a broken rail. The Ministry of Transport report criticised the maintenance of the line, especially following a recent increase of the maximum speed of trains over the route. Following the accident the maintenance of the line was improved and plans accelerated for replacing jointed track by continuous welded rail.

Derailment

On Sunday 5 November 1967 the 19:43 Hastings to Charing Cross service, consisting of twelve coaches (two six-car Class 201 diesel-electric multiple units) and travelling at approximately Template:Convert, derailed at 21:16 shortly before the St Mildred's Road railway bridge, near Hither Green maintenance depot. The leading pair wheels of the third coach were derailed by a broken rail and ran on for a Template:Convert before hitting points, causing eleven coaches to be derailed and four of those to turn onto their sides. The train came to rest in Template:Convert, except for the leading coach that detached and ran on a further Template:Convert.Template:Sfn

It was a busy Sunday evening and there were passengers standing in the train. Forty-nine passengers were killed and 78 injured, 27 being detained in hospital. Most of the casualties had been travelling in the overturned coaches.Template:Sfn Amongst the survivors was singer Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees and his wife-to-be Molly.

Aftermath

The emergency services arrived within five minutes and the first casualty arrived at hospital 18 minutes after the derailment. The last survivor was taken to hospital at 01:00 the following morning. Local residents, the Salvation Army and Women's Voluntary Service assisted the injured and shocked.Template:Sfn

The fast lines were blocked by the derailment and the traction current to the slow lines was turned off to allow the rescue. Traction current was temporarily restored to the slow lines for the Tuesday morning rush hour and returned to traffic at 15:40 that afternoon. The fast lines were reopened with a speed restriction at 06:20 Wednesday morning.Template:Sfn

Inquiry and report

The derailment was found to be due to a broken rail at a rail joint, where a fatigue crack through the first bolt hole in a running-on rail had progressively developed and a triangular piece of rail had broken out. The sleeper at the joint had previously failed and been replaced with a shallower timber replacement. This replacement had not been well packed, was on a shallow layer of clean ballast and the rubber pad supporting the rail on the adjacent concrete sleeper was missing.Template:Sfn

After the derailment passengers commented about trains running at excessive speed, but British Rail routinely monitored this and the number of trains running in excess of the permitted speed was small and normally only by a small amount. Complaints were also received about the rough riding of Hastings line stock and another train of the same class was tested on Southern Region and Eastern Region track. Although the ride quality was better on the Eastern region track, it was not considered dangerous on Southern Region track.Template:Sfn

The speed limit for electric multiple units on the track had been raised from Template:Convert to Template:Convert in July 1967.Template:Sfn After the derailment the line was inspected and a temporary speed restriction of Template:Convert imposed.Template:Sfn The report found that Civil Engineering and Inspection Departments had permitted too low a standard of maintenance on the line and had failed to assess the implications of increasing the speed of the trains.Template:Sfn

Legacy

Maintenance of the line was improved, inspection techniques and jointing methods were revised, and plans for replacing jointed track by continuous welded rail were accelerated. Concrete sleepers were banned at rail joints on the Southern Region.Template:Sfn

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Template:London rail accidents Template:1967 railway accidents Template:Robin Gibb Template:Coord