Ufton Nervet rail crash

Ufton Nervet rail crash

infobox UK rail accident

title= Ufton Nervet rail crash
date= 6 November 2004 18:12
location= Ufton Nervet, Berkshire
line = Reading to Plymouth Line
cause= Collision with car on level crossing
trains= 1
pax= 180-200
deaths= 7
injuries= 71
The Ufton Nervet rail crash in England caused seven deaths.

On 6 November 2004 at 18:12 GMT, a Class 43 (HST), 43019, operating First Great Western's 17:35 service from London Paddington to Plymouth hit a stationary car with the driver inside at an automatic level crossing close to the rural Berkshire village of Ufton Nervet. A subsequent inquest concluded that the accident was caused by Brian Drysdale, the driver of the car, committing suicide by parking on the crossing.

The rear of the 220 m-long HST set came to rest approximately 100 m beyond the crossing with all eight coaches derailing. Six people were killed in the crash, including the car's driver, the driver of the train, and four of its passengers. Another passenger subsequently died in a hospital, a total of seven fatalities. Approximately 200 people were on board at the time of the incident (official estimates are around 180-200), with around half of these injured, 12 of them seriously. Eleven people had to be cut free from the wreckage. The high structural integrity of the Mark 3 coaches prevented a much higher death toll.

The accident, investigation and necessary repairs blocked the main railway route between London and the West Country until the morning of 16 November, subsequently operating under temporary speed restrictions to allow the bedding in of ballast. In the meantime inter-city trains operated via Swindon and Westbury and local services were replaced by rail and bus shuttles.


In Britain, fully automatic "half-barrier" level crossings are used on quiet roads where rail line-speed is not more than 100 mph (160 km/h). These are unmonitored and are designed so that a car cannot get accidentally trapped behind a forward barrier. This allows a driver to "zig zag" around the barriers onto the track, usually in an attempt to save time. On busier roads, bridges or tunnels are preferred, or where this would be prohibitively expensive, a full-barrier crossing is built. These are always monitored, by CCTV or in person, and the facing barriers are closed only once all vehicles have cleared the line.


An investigation was begun, carried out by Thames Valley Police and the British Transport Police. A preliminary report by the Health and Safety Executive indicated that the car stopped on the level crossing before any warnings and failed to react to the barrier alarm sequence. A minor deflection of the stationary car to one side by the train derailed the forward bogie, which continued to travel at about 25° to the rails until reaching the points at the start of a loop. At this point the power car derailed completely, causing the remainder of the train to derail.

In the absence of information from the investigation, local and press speculation centred on the theory that Bryan Drysdale, the car's driver, might have parked on the level crossing in order to commit suicide, because there was no evidence of any attempt to move or exit the car.

The [http://www.rssb.co.uk/pdf/reports/Ufton%20-%20Preliminary%20Report.pdf preliminary report of the Rail Safety and Standards Board] published on 1 February 2005 reports among its findings so far that:
*The automatic half-barrier equipment and its associated ancillary equipment is in good condition and properly maintained.
*The train's driver shut off power and coasted for around four seconds, which was normal for this point in the journey. He then made an emergency brake application at or about the time of impact with the car.
*Lighting was completely lost in all the coaches during the accident. As a result, passengers and crew found orientation difficult, though the provision of snap light wands alleviated this problem to some degree. Some passengers who attempted to break windows in order to escape from the vehicle were hampered by breakage of the window hammers, and by the difficulty of reaching the upper windows of a vehicle leaning heavily to one side.
*No evidence has been presented that the maintenance condition of the train contributed in any way to the derailment or exacerbated its consequences.
*No evidence has been presented to the inquiry that would indicate there were any deficiencies in the fitness for duty on the part of the staff of either Network Rail or First Great Western.

On 1 June 2005 it was announced that an inquest into the crash would be held at the Guildhall in Windsor, Berkshire. The inquest was expected to last 12 days, starting on 17 October 2005. It had been [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/4406490.stm delayed] due to a dispute over whether the families of the victims should receive legal aid. However, The inquest began in October 2007. Testimony was heard from the policeman who witnessed the crash. Pc Brazier told the Jury that he believed the crash was caused by a suicide attempt. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/berkshire/7048929.stm] The Forensic Accident Investigator, David Price, told the inquest that he had been able to determine that the car had been parked on the level crossing with its engine switched off, the handbrake fully applied, the vehicle's lights were switched off, the steering was on a partial left hand lock (which was not consistent with driving across the crossing), and that the car had at least 8 litres of petrol still present.

The final conclusion of the inquest on the 1st November 2007 was that the accident had been caused by Brian Drysdale committing suicide. A support network, the Ufton Nervet Train Crash Network [http://www.untc.co.uk] , has been set up for survivors and relatives of the victims.

List of the deceased

* Brian Drysdale, 48, of Reading, Berkshire (the car driver)
* Louella Main, 9, of Speen, Berkshire (the daughter of Anjanette Rossi)
* Stanley Martin, 54, of Torquay, Devon (the train driver)
* Charlie Matthews, 72, of Warminster, Wiltshire
* Anjanette Rossi, 38, of Speen, Berkshire (the mother of Louella Main)
* Barry Strevens, 55, of Wells, Somerset
* Emily Webster, 14, of Doccombe, Devon


The accident occurred at a level crossing on the narrow lane linking the village of Ufton Nervet to the Bath Road (A4), about 300 metres from their junction. The crossing is between Theale and Aldermaston stations - the train was not scheduled to stop at either station.

Position: gbmapping|SU616687

See also

* List of British rail accidents
* Glendale train crash - a January 2005 crash on the Los Angeles, California commuter rail system in similar circumstances.


* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3989277.stm 'Several' die in train derailment] - BBC News
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3989339.stm BBC reporter eyewitness report] - BBC News
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3992537.stm Seven train crash dead are named] - BBC News
* [http://www.corporateaccountability.org/Deaths/berkshire.html#Drysdale Preliminary Coroner's summary] - corporateaccountability.org
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/10_11_04_crash_hse_interim.pdf Preliminary Health & Safety Exec. Report] - PDF
* [http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/news/release.php?item=255 First Great Western press release]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/berkshire/4599813.stm Inquest into Ufton Nervet crash] - BBC News

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