Rail line West Coast Main Line
Total number of deaths 3
Date 11 October 1984
Operator Network SouthEast
|Cause Signal passed at danger|
Similar Spa Road Junction rail crash, Paisley Gilmour Street rail accident, Colwich rail crash
The 17:54 passenger train from Euston to Bletchley, formed by two Class 310 electric multiple units, collided with a Freightliner train which was leaving Willesden yard. The first two coaches of the passenger train overturned onto their sides and three passengers were killed; 17 passengers and the driver were injured.
The passenger train had passed a signal at 'danger' after the driver had suffered a transient episode of amnesia, brought about by a rare medical condition. As a result, he had cancelled the AWS warnings at the signals approaching Wembley without realising.
Shortly after 18:00 a Freighter train, 4D62, the 16:00 from Willesden to Holyhead consisting of electric locomotive 86006, locomotive 85035 and 20 loaded Freighter vehicles was signalled from a goods line on to the Down Slow line just to the south of Wembley Central Station. The train attempted to negotiate the crossovers that led from the goods line to the Down Slow line when its eleventh wagon was struck by an eight-car electric multiple-unit passenger train, 2A85, the 17:54 from Euston to Bletchley, consisting of two 4-car Class 310 electric multiple-units. The resulting impact led to the deflection of the passenger train to its left towards the adjacent Fast lines with the remaining coaches derailed and overturned onto their sides apart from the rearmost coach.
Emergency services were quickly called to the scene and arrived within twelve minutes. The resulting collision caused damage to track, signalling and overhead line equipment with the debris blocking all main lines into and out of Euston. Three passengers died with a further seventeen passengers, including the driver of the passenger train, were taken to the nearby hospital with two detained. One detained passenger was released on 15 October and the other on 1 November.
The Down Fast line was restored at 18:22 on 12 October and later closed to traffic on 14 October to enable repairs to be completed. The Up Slow line was restored at 18:54 on 13 October and the Down Slow Lane was restored on 06:00 on 15 October.
Investigation and report
A formal inquiry was ordered under the Regulation of Railways Act 1871 and was conducted by the Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways who opened the inquiry. Evidence was heard in public in London on 9 November and addressed the question of whether the freight train was moving or stationary at the moment of impact.
The investigation turned its attention to the medical board when it was discovered that the driver Ronald Armstrong (born 25 July 1921) was found to have an unusual medical history. Armstrong regularly informed the board about suffering episodes of irregular disturbed vision that occurred three to four times a year without warning. Armstrong said he did not have such an episode when driving a train although he did suffer disturbed vision whilst driving his car.
Armstrong had also suffered from morning headaches which dated back many years which often occurred when getting up. Although the symptoms were dull, never severe and frontal in situation, he slept well but tended to wake in the early hours. He also suffered from bouts of indigestion, which was treated with bicarbonate of soda. Armstrong also suffered from panic attacks with an episode occurring before the accident. One medical condition he no longer suffered from was breathlessness and he also lost his sense of smell 18 months before the accident occurred.