RSSB marks 20 years since the Hatfield train accident

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Saturday 17 October is the 20th anniversary of the tragic train crash at Hatfield. 4 people died, and over 70 were seriously injured.

Mark Phillips, Chief Executive Officer of RSSB said:

‘Today, we remember the Hatfield train derailment, 20 years to the day that it happened.

At about 12:23 on Tuesday 17 October, a train from London Kings Cross to Leeds, travelling at about 115mph, derailed south of Hatfield station. Over 70 were injured, including 2 members of on-board staff, and tragically, 4 passengers died.

Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who died, those who were injured, and those who survived and live with the memory. We also remember the many people in the rail industry, the British Transport Police, emergency and rescue services, who played a part in the response on the day.

Back then I was based at Railtrack’s East Anglia region, and along with others, I supported the initial response by going to site that day. To bear witness to the aftermath of a major derailment, which had caused loss of life, was chilling and saddening. But then what follows is a sense of focussed determination to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

Key lessons from Hatfield have been learned and re-learned. Broken rails have fallen from a 40-year average of 750 a year to an 8-year average of around 150. Asset data is monitored closely and risk-based interventions can be made by infrastructure managers.

Significant progress has been made in making the railways safer than they were 20 years ago. This includes better crashworthiness of rolling stock, improvements to operational safety, signalling and control systems.

Additionally, there have been significant improvements in the way the rail industry works collaboratively across company boundaries to improve safety performance—a common uniting goal. There is a shared commitment to monitor the risk, to use research and analysis to get to the underlying causes of problems and identify solutions.

Today we remember the tragedy, its impact on human life, the lessons that we learned, and our ongoing determination to improve safety on our railways together.’

More information

If you want to interview one of our experts about safety or have further questions, please contact us at or telephone 020 3142 5653.

About RSSB

RSSB brings industry together to deliver expertise, solve complex issues and provide the headspace for collaboration, all leading to a better, safer railway.

As a membership-based rail industry body, RSSB includes train and freight operating companies, infrastructure managers, contractors, rolling stock leasing companies and suppliers, and our work involves partnerships and affiliation with academia, government, and many other railways and organisations across the world.

We provide impartial, risk-based analysis and insights to continually improve health, safety and performance. We develop standards, setting engineering and operational requirements for safe interworking and to increase efficiency. We also undertake research and development to enable industry to generate knowledge, technologies and operational solutions that individual players in the rail system could not pursue in isolation.

Together we form an industry support network, so that we all benefit from better safety, sustainability and service, and reduced cost and risk.


The image of the Hatfield memorial used on the front page was taken by MICHAEL PEAD Photography and appears by Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 2.0 uk

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