A 3-car DMU travelling at 50mph along the Up main line towards Severn Tunnel Junction Station (on the Paddington to South Wales Line) struck and instantly killed four men who were part of a permanent way gang engaged on keeping points clear of snow during the night. Two other members of the gang escaped without injury.
At the time of the accident, a strong easterly wind was blowing and two inches of snow which lay on the track was being whipped up and settling on the points with the passage of each train. The primary cause of the accident was a failure on the part of the man in charge of the gang to provide a ‘Lookoutman’ and suitable equipment for the protection of the men working on the track. Despite this omission, none of the other experienced men in the gang made any attempt to remedy this for their own safety. Although consumption of alcohol whilst on duty was strictly prohibited by BR rules, three of the men, including the man in charge of the group, contravened this rule by consuming three rounds of drinks in a public house during the course of their 12 hour shift (a postmortem revealed blood alcohol levels of 111mg and 99mg / 100mL of blood in two of the men). Although the effect of this on the judgement of the men can only remain open to conjecture, it was considered that this did not play a prominent part in the accident.
The report recommended that lookout protection for men working on lines open to traffic during the hours of darkness should be made compulsory. It also recommended fitting high intensity headlamps to all locomotives and multiple units, as soon as practicable, in order to make them more visible during the hours of darkness or in poor weather conditions. A Coroner’s verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned following an Inquest into the four deaths.
DOT; b/c; 8pp; f/o location diagram, track diagram (A.W. Froud).
Severn Tunnel Junction, WR
Information from Peter Mullen