Hither Green rail crash
The Hither Green rail crash was an accident on the British railway system that occurred on 5 November 1967 near Hither Green maintenance depot, between Hither Green
Hither Green railway station
Hither Green is a railway station located in Hither Green in the London Borough of Lewisham, in southeast London, United Kingdom. Hither Green is a busy commuter station with services to several London termini and destinations to the southeast Hither Green is a railway station located in Hither...

 and Grove Park
Grove Park railway station
Grove Park railway station is a railway station in London, England. It is located on Baring Road within Travelcard Zone 4, and serves the areas of Grove Park and Downham in the London borough of Lewisham. The station was opened in 1871. Currently there are five platforms...

 railway stations, in south-east London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...


A Sunday evening express train from Hastings
Hastings is a town and borough in the county of East Sussex on the south coast of England. The town is located east of the county town of Lewes and south east of London, and has an estimated population of 86,900....

 to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, consisting of twelve coaches (two six-car Class 201
British Rail Class 201
The British Rail Class 201 six-car diesel-electric multiple units were built in 1957-1958 at Eastleigh and Ashford. They were built for use on the London-Hastings line...

 diesel-electric multiple units), 1007 leading and 1017 trailing (1007 being of the short underframe variant and 1017 of the long underframe variant) derailed
A derailment is an accident on a railway or tramway in which a rail vehicle, or part or all of a train, leaves the tracks on which it is travelling, with consequent damage and in many cases injury and/or death....

 at approximately 70 mph (113 km/h), shortly before the train crossed the St Mildred's Road railway bridge. 2 coaches struck the bridge girders at track level. Most of the train overturned, two coaches having their sides torn off. The train was well-filled and 49 people died, making it Britain's sixth worst rail disaster. Singer Robin Gibb
Robin Gibb
Robin Hugh Gibb, CBE is a British singer and songwriter. He is best known as a member of the Bee Gees, co-founded with his twin brother Maurice , and elder brother Barry....

 of The Bee Gees
Bee Gees
The Bee Gees are a musical group that originally comprised three brothers: Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. The trio was successful for most of their 40-plus years of recording music, but they had two distinct periods of exceptional success: as a pop act in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and as a...

 and his wife Molly were two of the 78 passengers injured in the accident.

Cause of derailment

The accident was found to be due to a broken rail
Rail tracks
The track on a railway or railroad, also known as the permanent way, is the structure consisting of the rails, fasteners, sleepers and ballast , plus the underlying subgrade...

. At a rail joint, a fatigue
Fatigue (material)
'In materials science, fatigue is the progressive and localized structural damage that occurs when a material is subjected to cyclic loading. The nominal maximum stress values are less than the ultimate tensile stress limit, and may be below the yield stress limit of the material.Fatigue occurs...

 crack through the first bolt hole in the running-on rail had progressively developed and a triangular piece of rail had broken out.

The track in general was heavily trafficked by a dense outer suburban service of multiple unit trains, all of them with nose-suspended traction motors imposing high impact forces on any imperfection in the running surface of the rails. The running-off sleeper
Railroad tie
A railroad tie/railway tie , or railway sleeper is a rectangular item used to support the rails in railroad tracks...

 at the joint had previously failed and been replaced with a shallower timber replacement, and the replacement had not been well packed. The running-on rail was supported on an undisturbed concrete sleeper, giving a very rigid support, so that successive trains dipped into, and then struck, the running-on rail end, stressing it severely. The cyclical stress promoted growth of the fatigue crack.

The train which actually derailed was fitted with a special suspension to limit sway of the bodies due to tight clearances on tunnels on its route on the Tonbridge–Hastings line, and this caused very high wheel forces at track irregularities; this may have been the reason why this particular train derailed, due to the derailing ramp that was formed as the third coach passed over.

The speed limit had been raised from 75 mph to 90 mph in July 1967, and viewed in retrospect it is clear that resources for basic track maintenance were overwhelmed.

Recommendations of Inquiry

Rail inspection
Rail inspection is the practice of examining rail tracks for flaws that could lead to catastrophic failures. According to the United States Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, track defects are the second leading cause of accidents on railways in the United States. The...

 techniques and jointing methods were revised, and the existing plans for replacing jointed rail by long-welded rail were given a boost. Concrete sleepers were banned at rail joints on the Southern Region
Southern Region of British Railways
The Southern Region was a region of British Railways from 1948. The region ceased to be an operating unit in its own right in the 1980s and was wound up at the end of 1992. The region covered south London, southern England and the south coast, including the busy commuter belt areas of Kent, Sussex...


External links

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