Survivors mark Clapham anniversary

A simple ceremony this week will mark the 25th anniversary of the Clapham rail disaster which claimed 35 lives.

Survivors of the crash will gather on Thursday for prayers at a memorial garden close to the site of the crash in south London.

A two-minute silence will be observed at around 8.13am - the time when a London-bound commuter train crashed into the back of a stationary train before another smashed into the wreckage on December 12 1988.

Around two hours after the short service, a longer memorial service will be held on the same spot.

Both services are being conducted by the Rev Canon Hilary Johnson, who is head of chaplaincy at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London.

It was to St George's that many of those injured in the crash were taken following what is still the worst mainline train crash in terms of deaths since the Lewisham crash in December 1957.

In the Clapham disaster, the 6.14am from Poole, in Dorset, to Waterloo via Bournemouth, with more than 460 people on board, crashed into the back of the stationary 7.18am Basingstoke to Waterloo train ,which had stopped 300 yards from Clapham Junction station.

Seconds later, an empty train travelling away from London crashed into the wreckage.

Among those who rushed to assist were pupils from nearby Emanuel School who helped pull passengers from the wreckage and comforted them until expert medical help arrived.

An accident inquiry chaired by Anthony Hidden QC found that the primary cause of the crash was incorrect wiring work which had led to a signal failure. The technician involved had worked a seven-day week for the previous 13 weeks.

One of the Hidden recommendations was that working hours for safety-critical staff should be subject to restrictions, to ensure fatigue could not cause such an accident again.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, said: "Twenty five years on, we remember those who lost their lives and those who survived thanks to the work of the emergency services and staff from within our own industry.

"The tragedy is an eternal warning of what happens when staff are suffering fatigue and are operating within a culture of excessive hours and impossible demands."

He went on: "We are issuing a renewed call for an end to the casualisation and zero-hours contracts culture which is being rolled out across the railways by stealth and where fatigue, and a lack of clear management control, is once again being flagged up as a major issue by our members.

"We expect our concerns to be taken seriously and for immediate action to be taken to bring Network Rail works back in house within an environment where safety is paramount and where staff are on decent pay and conditions and where working hours are properly managed and controlled."

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