Hatfield rail crash
Hatfield rail crash was a railway accident on 17 October 2000, at
Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK. It was caused by a metal fatigue-induced
derailment, killing four people and injuring more than 70.
Though the accident did not result in a large number of deaths, it
exposed major stewardship shortcomings of the privatised national
railway infrastructure company Railtrack. Reports found there was a
lack of communication and some staff were not aware of maintenance
Railtrack subsequently went into administration and was
replaced by Network Rail. The aftermath of the accident saw widespread
speed limit reductions throughout the rail network and a tightening of
health and safety procedures, the repercussions of which were still
felt up to 15 years later. In 2005, both
Network Rail and the
Balfour Beatty were found guilty of breaching health and
4 Court case
5 See also
7 External links
Great North Eastern Railway
Great North Eastern Railway (GNER)
InterCity 225 train bound for
Leeds had left London King's Cross at 12:10, and was travelling along
East Coast Main Line
East Coast Main Line at approximately 115 miles per hour
(185 km/h) when it derailed south of Hatfield station at
12:23. The train was being driven by an experienced driver,
accompanied by a trainee who was expected to take over at Leeds.
The primary cause of the accident was later determined to be the
left-hand rail fracturing as the train passed over it.
The train travelled a further 1,000 yards (910 m) after
derailment. The leading locomotive and the first two coaches remained
upright and on the rails. All of the following coaches, and the
Driving Van Trailer
Driving Van Trailer were derailed, and the train set
separated into three sections. The restaurant coach, the eighth
vehicle in the set, overturned onto its side and struck an overhead
line gantry after derailing, resulting in severe damage to the
vehicle. The whole incident occurred in 17 seconds.
Four passengers died in the accident and a further 33 were initially
reported as injured, three seriously. The number of injured was
later revised to over 70. Those who died were all in the
Robert James Alcorn, 37, of Auckland, New Zealand 
Steve Arthur, 46, from Pease Pottage, West Sussex
Leslie Gray, 43, of Tuxford, Nottinghamshire
Peter Monkhouse, 50, of Headingley, Leeds
Two of those seriously injured were GNER staff working in the
restaurant coach at the time of the accident.
Anna Brecon was travelling on the train, and suffered minor cuts and
Crash investigators found the British Rail-designed Mark 4 coaches had
good structural integrity and, aside from the restaurant coach,
remained intact after the accident. Coincidentally, the locomotive
in the crash was also involved in the
Great Heck rail crash
Great Heck rail crash (where the
Driving Van Trailer
Driving Van Trailer hit a road vehicle on the track) a few
A preliminary investigation found a rail had fragmented as trains
passed and that the likely cause was "rolling contact fatigue"
(defined as multiple surface-breaking cracks). Such cracks are caused
by high loads where the wheels contact the rail. Repeated
loading causes fatigue cracks to grow. When they reach a critical
size, the rail fails. Portions of the failed track at Hatfield were
reassembled and numerous fatigue cracks were identified; these
contributed to spalling of the running surface to around five
millimetres (0.20 in) deep and 100 millimetres (3.9 in)
The problem was known about before the accident; a letter from the
Railtrack in December 1999 warned that the
Railtrack Line Specification was insufficient to guard
against this type of fatigue. Replacement rails were made
available but never delivered to the correct location for
Railtrack had divested the engineering knowledge
British Rail into contractors. While it had comprehensive
maintenance procedures that might have prevented the accident if
followed appropriately, later investigation showed there was a serious
problem with the experience and working knowledge of staff. In a
subsequent interview, the Zone Quality Standards Manager said, "I do
not have knowledge of railway engineering nor railway safety", which
was completely contrary to the written requirements for the role.
In May 1999, the Head of Track had said that insufficiently skilled
work was causing more rails to break.
Railtrack did not know how
many other cases of rail fatigue around the network could lead to a
Hatfield-like accident and consequently imposed over 1,800
emergency speed restrictions and instigated a costly nationwide track
replacement programme. The company was subject to "enforcement" by
the Rail Regulator, Tom Winsor.
In 2004, Arthur's widow was awarded £1m damages in the High Court.
The families of the other three fatal casualties received damages out
of court. A memorial service was held for the victims on the 10th
anniversary of the crash in 2010 at St Etheldreda's Church, Hatfield.
A second service was held near the crash site afterwards. Both were
conducted by the Rector of Hatfield, who had attended to casualties
and the bereaved in the immediate aftermath of the accident in
The speed restrictions and track replacement works caused significant
disruption on a majority of the national network for more than a
year. The disruption and Railtrack's spiralling costs eventually
caused the company to enter administration at the insistence of
Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, and its replacement by the
Network Rail under Byers's successor Alistair
Train operating companies were adversely affected by the disruption,
losing an estimated 19% of revenue in the year following the crash.
Freight operator EWS was cancelling up to 400 trains per week as a
result, whilst estimates put Freightliner's resultant losses at £1
million per month. The cost to the entire UK economy of the disruption
was estimated at £6 million per day.
The Institute of Rail Welding (IoRW) was set up in 2002 by The Welding
Institute (TWI) and
Network Rail as a consequence of the
recommendations in the investigation report. It provides a focus
for individuals and organisations involved in rail welding and
facilitates the adoption of best practice.
The aftermath of the crash had long-reaching repercussions in the rail
industry. In 2015, at the 15th anniversary of the accident, the Rail,
Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said a new system for handling
maintenance introduced by
Network Rail was confusing, and there was
the potential for a similar accident to re-occur. The union's general
secretary said that
Network Rail needed to act on their concerns,
otherwise there would be industrial action.
In 2003, five managers and two companies –
Network Rail (as
successors of Railtrack) and the division of
Balfour Beatty that
maintained the track – were charged with manslaughter and breach of
health and safety charges in connection with the accident. The
managers, Anthony Walker (Balfour Beatty's rail maintenance director),
Nicholas Jeffries (its civil engineer), Railtrack's Alistair Cook and
Sean Fugill (asset managers for the London North-East zone), and track
engineer Keith Lee, all denied the charges. The corporate
manslaughter charges against Network Rail/
Railtrack and some of its
executives were dropped in September 2004, but the other charges
The trial began in January 2005; the judge, Mr Justice Mackay, warned
that it could go on for a year. On 14 July, the judge instructed the
jury to acquit all defendants on charges of manslaughter. A few
Balfour Beatty changed its plea to guilty on the health
and safety charges, and on 6 September,
Network Rail was found
guilty of breaching health and safety law.
Network Rail were fined
£3.5 million while
Balfour Beatty were fined £10 million. All of
the manslaughter charges against the executives were dismissed by the
Ladbroke Grove rail crash, an earlier accident that also led to
reforms in British railway management and safety
List of rail accidents in the United Kingdom
^ The ORR Final Report in 2006 states "over 70" injured; news reports
vary, mentioning figures up to "102 injured".
^ a b ORR 2006, p. 1.
^ a b c d e Cobain, Ian; Harvey, Michael; Bird, Steve (18 October
2000). "Four killed and 33 hurt: mechanical failure blamed". The
Times. Retrieved 16 August 2016. (Subscription required (help)).
^ ORR 2006, p. 45.
^ ORR 2006, p. 43.
^ a b "How Hatfield changed the railways". BBC News. 6 September 2005.
Retrieved 23 August 2016.
^ a b c "Church services mark Hatfield train crash anniversary". BBC
News. 17 October 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
^ Bird, Steve; Wilkinson, Paul; Horsnell, Michael (20 October 2000).
"Pilot who flew worldwide met death on train". The Times. p. 11.
Retrieved 21 August 2016. (Subscription required (help)).
^ "British police recommend corporate manslaughter charges (Aucklander
Robert Alcorn killed)".
New Zealand Herald. 30 July 2001.
^ "Family pleased at charges over fatal train crash". New Zealand
Herald. 10 July 2003.
^ a b c Cobain, Ian; Horsnell, Michael; Binyon, Michael (19 October
Railtrack knew about faulty line". The Times. p. 1.
Retrieved 21 August 2016. (Subscription required (help)).
^ ORR 2006, p. 4.
^ ORR 2006, p. 34.
^ Senior, Roger (2016). Train Doctor: Trouble Shooting with Diesel and
Electric Traction. Casemate Publishers. p. 20.
^ ORR 2006, p. 16.
^ Doherty, Andy; Steve Clark; Robert Care; Mark Dembosky (June 2005).
"Why Rails Crack?". Ingenia Online. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
^ ORR 2006, pp. 54–5.
^ ORR 2006, p. 17.
^ Benn, Tony (2010). More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001–2007.
Random House. p. 364. ISBN 978-1-4090-6320-9.
^ ORR 2006, pp. 81, 84.
^ ORR 2006, p. 114.
^ ORR 2006, p. 107.
^ ORR 2006, p. 98.
^ ORR 2006, p. 120.
^ Pank, Philip (18 October 2010). "Rail safety 'still an issue' 10
years after Hatfield". The Times. p. 11. Retrieved 22 August
2016. (Subscription required (help)).
^ "Hatfield crash "was disaster waiting to happen"". The Daily
Telegraph. 31 January 2005. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
Railtrack in administration". BBC News. 8 October 2001. Retrieved
22 August 2016.
^ "Rail privatisation – a short history". Channel 4 News. 1 July
2009. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
^ Andrew Murray (2001), Off the rails: Britain's great rail
crisis : cause, consequences and cure, Verso, "Companies in
trouble", pp. 124–129
^ "Mission statement". Institute of Rail Welding. Retrieved 23 August
^ "Repairing RCF – The IoRW's 2015 Technical Seminar". Rail
Engineer. 21 August 2015. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
^ "Unions raise safety concerns on
Hatfield rail crash
Hatfield rail crash anniversary".
BT News. 16 October 2015. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
^ "Hatfield a "disaster in waiting"". BBC News. 31 January 2005.
Retrieved 22 August 2016.
^ "Charges dropped against Railtrack". BBC News. 2 September 2004.
Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 4 March
^ "Rail killing charges thrown out". BBC News. 14 July 2005. Archived
from the original on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2007.
^ "Company admits Hatfield breaches". BBC News. 18 July 2005. Archived
from the original on 5 August 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2007.
Network Rail guilty over Hatfield". BBC News. 6 November 2005.
Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 4 March
^ Milner, Mark (15 July 2005). "Judge dismisses Hatfield rail
manslaughter charges". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
Derailment at Hatfield : A Final Report by the Independent
Investigation Board (PDF) (Report). Office of Rail Regulation. July
2006. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
ORR summary: Hatfield train derailment (archive copy)
ORR Final Report by the Independent Investigation Board (archive copy)
Health & Safety Executive page on the Hatfield crash
Why Rails Crack Ingenia, June 2005
Hatfield Rail Disaster – OpenLearn from The Open University
BBC News coverage:
BBC News In Depth – Hatfield crash
Railway accidents in 2000 (2000)
Location and date
Åsta, Norway (4 January)
Brühl, Germany (6 February)
Naka-Meguro, Japan (8 March)
Hatfield, United Kingdom (17 October)
Kaprun, Austria (11 November)
Sarai Banjara, India (2 December)
Manila, Philippines (30 December)