Railway safety and crime


Clapham Junction disaster lessons are ‘fading’ from rail sector following London Waterloo collision last year

Errors made during the derailment of a London Waterloo train last year showed lessons learned from the 1988 Clapham Junction disaster were “fading” from the rail industry, the rail accident investigator has found.

The collision of the 05:42am train with a stationary engineering train on 15 August 2017 led to no injuries, however the derailment caused severe disruption, and the mistakes made were similar to those that led to the crash in 1988 that killed 35 people.

The RAIB report found that the passenger train last year was diverted away from its intended route by a set of incorrectly positioned points of track as a result of “uncontrolled wiring added to the signalling system.”

The uncontrolled wiring was originally added to deal with an issue discovered whilst testing signalling system modification, resulting in a problem where the test equipment design process did not allow for alterations to be made after the test equipment was designed.

The RAIB also noted that witness evidence showed that the functional tester—the staff member with the role of testing the equipment— had a “poor understanding” of how testing processes interacted with design and installation processes, and “did not fully consider” the potential consequences of adding the wiring.

Chief inspector of Rail Accidents Simon French said the mistakes made during the testing process was “concerning” that some of the industrial changes made during the Clapham Junction disaster were not reflected during their investigation last year.

The immediate cause of the 1988 disaster (found in an accident inquiry chaired by Anthony Hidden QC) was due to poor working practice by a signalling technician that caused an incorrect signal to be displayed to the train driver, who took a dangerous bend and collided with trains ahead.

“The disastrous collision at Clapham Junction on 12 December 1988, in which 35 people died and 415 were injured, was a turning point in the history of Britain’s railways,” said French.

“The immediate cause of the accident was poor working practice by a signalling technician, and the subsequent public inquiry into the accident highlighted serious deficiencies in the management of safety, particularly around the design, modification, testing and commissioning of signalling systems.”

French went on to say that some of the people involved in the signalling work connected with upgrading Waterloo station and its approach tracks “did not keep proper records” of temporary works or ensure that additional temporary wiring was shown on the design documents.

He added: “We are recommending that Network Rail takes action to develop and reinforce a positive safety culture within the signal engineering profession as a whole, by putting in place processes to educate present and future staff about how and why the standards have been developed, and why these things matter.

“It’s also important to give people the skills to recognise and deal with non-compliant behaviour, whether that behaviour is by themselves or their colleagues. I believe that this accident at Waterloo starkly demonstrates why the lessons of Clapham should never be forgotten.”

Enjoying RTM? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Image credit: RAIB


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Workers who narrowly avoided death had no one in charge and ‘ineffective’ safety arrangements

18/12/2018Workers who narrowly avoided death had no one in charge and ‘ineffective’ safety arrangements

“Ineffective” safety arrangements and a number of unofficial working practices contributed to a group of track workers narrowly avoid... more >
Structural steelwork begins on Glasgow Queen Street transformation

18/12/2018Structural steelwork begins on Glasgow Queen Street transformation

The transformation of Glasgow Queen Street has been revealed as engineers have finished the installation of the west truss and have begun buildin... more >
Rival operators to run on same rail routes in bid to drive up competition

18/12/2018Rival operators to run on same rail routes in bid to drive up competition

Passengers will have the choice of choosing which train operators they travel with under new plans to allow rival TOCs to operate on the same rou... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Spotlight on Coventry Very Light Rail

27/11/2018Spotlight on Coventry Very Light Rail

Olivia Brown, business development officer at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), an academic department of the University of Warwick, outlines the four exciting projects currently taking place as part of the Coventry Very Light Rail (VLR)  programme. In RTM’s June/July issue, readers were introduced to the concept of VLR and th... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Passenger safety: Respect the edge

27/11/2018Passenger safety: Respect the edge

Claire Coward, communications lead at the RSSB, discusses her organisation’s latest passenger safety campaign. Incidents at the platfo... more >
Night Tube: The twilight economy

27/11/2018Night Tube: The twilight economy

Dr David Lutton, executive director of economy and tax at London First, argues that the capital’s night-time economy is just starting its j... more >
Monitoring the performance of earthworks

27/11/2018Monitoring the performance of earthworks

Dr Joel Smethurst, associate professor in geotechnical engineering, and Professor William Powrie, professor of geotechnical engineering, both of ... more >
Introducing iPort

20/11/2018Introducing iPort

Steve Freeman, managing director of iPort Rail, introduces the UK’s newest inland freight terminal. The UK’s newest inland rail ... more >

rail industry focus

View all News


HS2 train race: making the case

20/11/2018HS2 train race: making the case

Bombardier and Hitachi’s commitment to providing the best HS2 rolling stock pitch to the government was signified with the launch of their ... more >