Candles lit for 31 killed in Paddington rail crash on 20th anniversary

5 October 2019, 11:26

Families of the victims and survivors laid flowers to remember those who died in the disaster
Families of the victims and survivors laid flowers to remember those who died in the disaster. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Candles have been lit in memory of the 31 people who died in the Paddington rail crash in 1999, as part of a memorial to mark the 20th anniversary of the disaster.

A silence was held to mark the time of the accident at the crash memorial site high above the railway line at Ladbroke Grove in west London on Saturday.

It will be followed by a service at St Helen's Church in North Kensington.

The accident took place during the morning rush-hour between a Thames Trains commuter service and a London-bound high-speed train which was heading for Paddington station.

The commuter train driver, Michael Hodder, 31, and the First Great Western driver, Brian Cooper, 52, were among those killed as the collision.

More than 220 other people were injured, including Paddington Survivors Group chairman Jonathan Duckworth, 61, from Stroud in Gloucestershire.

Travelling on the FGW train, Mr Duckworth said he was left "battered and bruised" after being thrown around the carriage during the crash, and later he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

People are remember 20 years since the tragic crash
People are remember 20 years since the tragic crash. Picture: PA Images

He added: "It is a desperately sad day for the bereaved because it is such an unnecessary day - the crash should not have happened.

"There were lots of factors that could have stopped it, none of them had been put in place.

"My life was completely changed. My world was literally turned upside down, it was turned upside down in the coach and turned upside down now."

The subsequent inquiry into the disaster revealed that the Thames service travelling from Paddington to Bedwyn in Wiltshire had gone through a red signal before crashing into the London-bound high-speed train which had left Cheltenham Spa in Gloucestershire at 6.03am.

Pat Mason, a councillor in the Kensington and Chelsea borough since 1991, said that lessons had been learned but emphasised the parallels with the Grenfell Tower fire, which occurred just over a mile away from the scene of the crash.

Many of those attending the memorial wore small green Grenfell remembrance badges.

Dame Cressida Dick attended the memorial which remembers 20 years since the fatal incident
Dame Cressida Dick attended the memorial which remembers 20 years since the fatal incident. Picture: PA Images

Mr Mason said: "I just wish that the authorities and the Government would fix the problems that cause these disasters before they happen, like what will happen with Grenfell.

"They knew these signals were deficient, they knew what the problems were on the lines, the rail unions were talking about them for years.

"They didn't listen, another thing that happened at Grenfell.

"They waited until 31 people died and burned to death in this crash. I wish we didn't have to come to these memorials because it means we failed.

"We failed with the Ladbroke Grove train crash, we failed with Grenfell, we failed with the King's Cross fire.

"They learned their lessons, but 31 people died in the process and 300 more were injured and maybe some of them are still suffering, and they're here 20 years later."

Dame Cressida Dick laid flowers at the memorial
Dame Cressida Dick laid flowers at the memorial. Picture: PA

HM Chief Inspector of Railways, Ian Prosser, said it was very important to mark the anniversary of the tragedy because so many people were killed, injured or affected by it.

But he warned that while the disaster had a "profound" impact on safety it was vital the rail industry did not become complacent about passenger safety.

In 2018-19 there were almost 1.8 billion passenger journeys made on the country's rail network, with 1.4 fatalities per billion train kilometres recorded.

According to the Office of Rail and Road, there were 17 passenger fatalities on the railway in 2018-19, up from nine in 2017-18, and the highest number for the last 10 years.