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Author Topic: Accident at Hixon Level Crossing, Staffordshire, 6 January 1968 - 50th anniversary  (Read 2934 times)
SandTEngineer
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« on: January 06, 2018, 02:50:36 pm »

A terrible accident (50 years ago today, 06 January 1968) that brought about fundemental change into the way Automatic Half Barrier Crossings worked.
http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/docsummary.php?docID=74
« Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 08:23:41 pm by SandTEngineer » Logged
eightf48544
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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2018, 04:13:27 pm »

I studied this accident on an OU course Human Factors in System Design. Which was basically a study of various disasters.

Interestingly enough there had been previous incident where a low loader from the same company had  had stuck on a crossing, somewhere between Hereford and Shrewsbury, I think,  with non fatal consequences.

This proved to be a common factor a common factor in many of the disasters studied  that there had been a non fatal precursor.

Previous  SPADs (Signal Passed At Danger) at SN109!

Plus  in an uncanny way the Summerland fire on the IOM  (also studied) and Grenfell Tower, both plastic cladding..
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Adelante_CCT
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2018, 05:25:17 pm »

June already? I swear we've just had Christmas?  Smiley
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ChrisB
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« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2018, 06:33:16 pm »

The accident occured on 6 *January*
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SandTEngineer
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« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2018, 07:31:10 pm »

...alright, I'm not perfect (yet).... Roll Eyes Tongue
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SandTEngineer
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« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2018, 07:32:02 pm »

Interestingly enough there had been previous incident where a low loader from the same company had  had stuck on a crossing, somewhere between Hereford and Shrewsbury, I think,  with non fatal consequences.

Leominster.
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stuving
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« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2018, 08:04:39 pm »

There were two aspects to this accident: the AHB and the oversize heavy load (plus the dog that didn't go bang - clearance to the OLE (Overhead Line Equipment, more often "OHLE")). The AHB triggered most of the detailed discussion, and led to a revised way their operation was designed and justified. But we still have AHBs with a warning time measured in seconds, and none of the subsequent changes would have stopped this accident.

To my mind the big change that followed it was in the operation and regulation of these exceptional loads, and in the attitude to consultation and publicity for level crossings. If you read the report it is striking how off-hand and arrogant those at senior levels in both BRB(resolve) and Wynns were. Even after the previous near-accident (at Leominster 8th Nov 1966), Wynns management claimed not to know their heavier vehicles should not cross any unmanned level crossing without a phone call, and even denied knowing there were (in most relevant cases) telephones. As the inspector notes "There were other sources of information which Messrs. Wynn might have noted, namely the national and trade press and paragraph 58 of the highway code...".

On the other side, can you imagine the railways now introducing a new type of crossing with implications for heavy loads without even notifying (and asking for comments) the main contractors involved? The report quotes a letter from a Mr. Lattimer, Assistant General Manager of the Western Region, which it describes as "remarkable for its arrogance and lack of insight" - true, but no short quote would really show that.

I've commented before how often accidents at level crossings involving convois exceptionels happen in France, compared with here. The BEA-TT site has a menu list that allows you to see this (see next post), but I can't find any such links for RAIB (Rail Accident Investigation Branch) reports since its enforced transfer to the .gov.uk site. Is there any easy way to get a list of level crossing accidents with a brief description of each?
« Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 10:19:19 pm by stuving » Logged
stuving
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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2018, 08:24:29 pm »

As I said, the French do seem to have a thing about level crossings and big vehicles. Even over the 12 years off the BEA-TT back-list, there are far too many, with a dismal similarity with each other and with Hixon. I though I would summarise them - in doing which I found out how many there really are!

Nangis (April 2015) This was only a first-level convoi exceptionel, not needing approval or escort, but was a low loader. It was going through town on a route banned to all heavy vehicles and grounded on the crossing. The driver decided to raise the trailer but couldn't find the controls on an unfamiliar rig! He didn't see the telephone (or know it was there) - but neither did an off-duty fireman who was present. When the warning came they ran to the station, which was predictably futile. The loco-hauled train derailed and went through the station rubbing against the platform which may have held it upright, and injuries minor apart from three serious. But the ifs are scary - a train had just left the other way, so if it had been still there, if the platform had not been empty, if the train had turned over or gone to the other side, ...

Saint-Rémy-de-Sillé (Oct 2013) Another smallish low loader that grounded while on a road it wasn't allowed to use. Fortunately this one was not a direct hit and the damage was a lot less.

Marseille-L’Estaque (April 2013) This time a small mobile crane, but it took a wrong turn into an even smaller back street, and had to come back out over the crossing. The driver was doing a not very good job of turning round when the warning and then the the train came. Only the jib of the crane was then foul of the track, so the damage was slight, though not to the crane.

Saint-Médard-sur-Ille (Oct 2011) This was not strictly exceptionel, though a low-platform artic, able to take shipping containers, with its own crane. Its driver saw a "hump-back" warning sign so slowed down, but took no notice of the flashing light for ten seconds (!) and then stopped suddenly on the crossing when the barriers descended. Being worried about breaking the barrier, he spent so long undecided whether to go forward or back that he was still there when the train arrived. The train derailed but didn't hit anything solid, but even so three passenger were killed.

Mesvres (May 2011) A proper convoi exceptionel, with three wind turbine blades, and escorting vehicles, of which one stopped with its back end on the crossing. This was essentially due to not taking seriously that rule about not starting to cross until there is enough room on the other side - despite the obvious importance of it in this case. In fact there is a regulation that any vehicle that can't easily cross the whole crossing in seven seconds has to notify SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways), but BEA-TT found it rather too vague. Another glancing blow with no victims that could have been much worse.

Balbigny (Jan 2011) Another low loader grounded on a crossing when it could (and should) have been raised first. It was a goods train, and only minor injuries.

Tossiat (Dec 2007) An asphalt laying machine in road-going configuration - so an oversize load - just grazed a height-limiting portal. (The vehicle was 4.5 m high, the portal 4.7 m but had danglers down to 4.4 m. The normal vehicle height limit in France is 4 m). Being scared of the volts, the crew decided to lower its suspension where it stopped on the crossing, a 5-minute operation. When the warning came they all ran, the driver to move the thing which he didn't do in time. He was killed, the only victim; the train was a TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse),

Saint-Médard-sur-Ille (Feb 2007) Yes - the same crossing as four years later! Again, just a normal HGV, but on a narrow crossing where trucks move out to the middle of the road. Also, while there was one-way working with temporary lights there was traffic going the "wrong" way to or from intermediate turns. When a driver found himself on the crossing when the barriers came down, partly blocking his exit, he stopped, got out, and tried to push it up! Several passenger injured, and thew conclusion was "more public education needed" (about the frangibility of barriers).

Domène (Oct 2006) A level 3 (highest) convoi exceptionel, at 25 m long with a 54-ton generator on board, being taken from Italy to Germany via France by a Dutch transport company. The Swiss won't let such things in for transit, and the route it took via Grenoble was about the only one possible for such a weight. All involved (Van Der Vlist Speciaal, SNCF, the département) had plenty of experience of these big loads, and around one per month was authorised for this route. However, direct contact with the SNCF was compulsory, and only half did that (though some may have not used their authorisation). Van Der Vlist Speciaal, despite knowing all the rules, had form for ignoring them - the penalties for that are minuscule - and didn't contact SNCF this time (they did apply for route authorisation). The issue with this crossing was a tight turn right next to it, which long loads needed to manoeuvre round (perhaps using extra steering wheels). So on this occasion the obvious happened; luckily the load itself was clear and only the back of the trailer was struck - and no derailment.

Saint-Laurent-Blangy (June 2005) Only an HGV, but with aggravating factors. It stopped on the crossing because the air line came apart (at a permanent screwed union) and the trailer's brakes came on. The driver tried to put it back, but couldn't, and tried to drive off. He didn't think to use the telephone until another driver said to, but by then it was to late. The TER didn't derail, but pushed the truck along, spilling it load next to the train. Unfortunately its load was butane/propane gas bottles, and the leaking fuel and sparks led to an immediate fire. Fortunately there were not many passengers who got out quickly, a second train had stopped and raised the alarm, and while this is an urban location, there were no bystanders involved. Unfortunately the fire did rapidly spread to the train, and start the gas bottles exploding, but with no victims. I'm not sure if it's fair to put that down as another example of this French thing with level crossings and heavy vehicles - but it's scary enough anyway.

So that's only twelve years' worth - but ten of them. See what I mean? But am I right to think this kind of thing is much less common here, or am I kidding myself?
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Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2018, 09:04:48 pm »

...alright, I'm not perfect (yet).... Roll Eyes Tongue

To spare you any further blushes, SandTEngineer, I have now revised the headings in this topic.  Wink
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William Huskisson MP (Member of Parliament) was the first person to be killed by a train while crossing the tracks, in 1830.  Many more have died in the same way since then.  Don't take a chance: stop, look, listen.

"Level crossings are safe, unless they are used in an unsafe manner."  Discuss.
SandTEngineer
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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2018, 09:10:55 pm »

...alright, I'm not perfect (yet).... Roll Eyes Tongue

To spare you any further blushes, SandTEngineer, I have now revised the headings in this topic.  Wink
Thanks CfN.
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broadgage
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« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2018, 07:55:06 pm »

This makes me feel very old, as I remember it well, I was a school child at the time.

Near the school there was, and still is, a level crossing. The accident at Hixon led to a great deal of ill informed comment regarding our local crossing being "dangerous" and calls for it to be manned by a police officer or a railway worker to protect children.

Even as an 8 year old, I could see no real connection between the Hixon disaster and the alleged dangers of our new crossing. There was no question of an accident involving an exceptional load, since immediately adjacent to our crossing was a low and narrow bridge under which only cars and smaller vans could pass.
There was however considerable concern, and at school we were all warned of the dangers of misuse, and also told that the crossing was perfectly safe if used properly. We were also all shown a very graphic short film that warned of the dangers of trespass on railways. It showed dismembered parts of a child being collected up in a sack, after being hit by a train.
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
stuving
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« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2018, 11:42:54 am »

Here's a piece from a local paper, the Express & Star:
Quote
Hixon rail disaster marked 50 years on with memorial
By John Corser | Staffordshire | News | Published: Jan 6, 2018

Today marks the 50th anniversary of a horrendous rail crash on a level crossing on New Road at the village of Hixon, near Stafford, in which 11 people died.


Firefighters and volunteers at the scene of the disaster

A new memorial to those who died on January 6, 1968, is being unveiled in the village churchyard this afternoon.

The Vicar of Hixon, the Rev Mike Cadwallader, will be leading prayers in the grounds of St Peter's Church, from 12 noon with the unveiling at 12.36pm - 50 years to the hour of the crash involving the high speed 12-carriage Manchester to London Euston electric express.


The old level crossing - where the crash happened

It was carrying 300 passengers when it collided with a road transporter with a 120-tonne transformer on board coming from Stafford’s English Electric factory at the old level crossing in New Road.

The train driver, his assistant, a spare driver and eight passengers died in the crash.

Local historian Dr Malcolm Garner, a recognised authority on the disaster, will also be giving a talk on the events of a half century ago in Hixon Memorial Hall at 2pm. An exhibition about the rail crash is also being staged there



(Taken from a longer article, see also this later one.)
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2018, 11:38:45 am »

This month's Railway Magazine has an article about this too. Though largely drawn from the inquiry report, it does make an interesting point:

A key factor in this collision was that responsibility for the safety of level crossings, at the point of use, had been transferred from the rail operator to the road user. That was a major transfer of responsibility, which was not properly publicised. Before AHBs, road users could tell that it wasn't safe to cross because a railway employee came and shut a big wooden gate across the road. When that gate was re-opened, road users were protected by the signalling system. It was slow, and frustrating for road users, but safe. AHBs removed this protection and made it possible to drive a vehicle through an open barrier and then halt it in the path of a train that had could not be stopped.

Out of interest, does anyone know how many road/rail collisions have taken place on 'traditional' fully-gated manned level crossings in the last 50 years?

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Things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.
Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2018, 10:30:18 pm »


Out of interest, does anyone know how many road/rail collisions have taken place on 'traditional' fully-gated manned level crossings in the last 50 years?


I don't, but the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB (Rail Accident Investigation Branch)) might have such statistics: you could try asking them - enquiries@raib.gov.uk   Undecided

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William Huskisson MP (Member of Parliament) was the first person to be killed by a train while crossing the tracks, in 1830.  Many more have died in the same way since then.  Don't take a chance: stop, look, listen.

"Level crossings are safe, unless they are used in an unsafe manner."  Discuss.
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