Clapham rail crash

07 December 2018

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Clapham rail crash when three trains collided in south London at 8.13 on Monday 12 December 1988. Thirty-five men and women lost their lives and another 484 were injured. Two of those who died were ASLEF members: driver John Rolls and driver Arthur Creech.


Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, said: ‘Our thoughts at this time are with all the families who lost their loved ones.’


The Clapham rail disaster was a watershed moment for railway safety. A public inquiry into the accident, conducted by Anthony Hidden QC, found that the primary cause of the crash was a wiring error made by a worker who had only had one day off in the three months prior to the accident. The Hidden report pinpointed failings and made 93 recommendations – including limits on the number of hours that railwaymen and women should work – to improve safety on the rail network in Britain. In response, the rail industry introduced higher standards and testing of signalling equipment and minimum rest periods between safety critical work.


Another result of the crash was a change in UK health & safety law, as we developed a better understanding of the need to monitor the quality of safety critical work on all aspects of the railway to protect the safety of passengers and crews.


Network Rail has organised an invitation-only event in church at 11am for representatives from Network Rail, the Rail Delivery Group, South Western Railway and other industry bodies. Trade unions appear not to have been included.


So GS Mick Whelan, DO1 Graham Morris, and EC1 Marz Colombini will be joining drivers from branches in District 1 to lay wreaths at the Clapham rail crash memorial and observe a two minutes silence at 8.13.


Chris Sneddon, district council chair and Wimbledon branch secretary, said: ‘We will be meeting at the Clapham Junction main entrance at 7.30 and then walking round to the memorial site. Any of you who are free to attend are very welcome to join us.


‘Because the accident we will mark on Wednesday, as well as the lives that were lost and irrevocably altered, cast a shadow that lingers. The way we work, the way we view our work, the very fabric of the industry we serve was fundamentally changed for both workers and the passengers we carry because of lessons learned after the Clapham accident.

‘We will not forget Driver John Rolls. We will not forget Driver Arthur Creech. We will not forget the hard lessons learned on 12 December 1988.’


In the memorial garden close to the site of the crash is a simple stone memorial. The inscription says: ‘For those who lost their lives in the Clapham Junction rail disaster on 12 December 1988, those who were injured, their families, friends and all who helped and cared at the time and afterwards.’






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