Moorgate tube crash

Moorgate tube crash
Moorgate tube crash
Moorgate station
Date and time 28 February 1975 08:46
Location Moorgate
Rail line Northern Line (Highbury Branch)
(London Underground)
Cause Unknown
Trains 1
Deaths 43+
List of UK rail accidents by year

The Moorgate tube crash was a railway disaster on the London Underground, which occurred on 28 February 1975 at 08.46 am.

A southbound train on the Northern Line (Highbury Branch) crashed into the tunnel end beyond the platform at Moorgate station. Forty-three people were killed at the scene, either from the impact or from suffocation, the greatest loss of life during peacetime in the London Underground, and the second greatest loss of life on the entire London Transport system (the first being the 7 July 2005 London bombings). The cause of the incident was never determined conclusively.[1]

The crash had two consequences for the London Underground. Firstly, the southern end of the Highbury Branch platforms (where the crash happened) were rebuilt extensively. Secondly, automatic systems for stopping trains were introduced into dead-ends on the tube, regardless of whether the driver brakes the train. These systems came to be known informally as Moorgate control.


Details of the incident

The train was the 8:39 am from Drayton Park on the Highbury Branch, terminating at platform nine of Moorgate station seven minutes later. At that time plans were being developed for the service, known previously as the Great Northern & City Railway and then as the Northern City Line, to be transferred to British Railways. (It is now operated by First Capital Connect). The train was formed of two three-car units of 1938 tube stock. The leading unit comprised driving motor 11175, trailer 012263 and driving motor 10175.[1] The trailing unit comprised driving motor 11115, trailer 012167, driving motor 10015.[1]

Instead of braking on arrival the train seemed to accelerate, taking the crossover at about 35 miles per hour (56 km/h). At the end of the platform was a 66 feet (20 m) long overrun tunnel with a red stop-lamp, then a sand drag, and finally a single hydraulic buffer in front of a brick wall. The sand drag slowed the train but it smashed into the buffer at about 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) and then into the wall. The first emergency call was received at 8:53 am.

Looking north on a North City Line platform at Moorgate station, showing the mainline size diameter of the tunnels

The overrun tunnel was built to accommodate surface line loading gauge trains and was 16 feet (4.9 m) high. The smaller diameter of the tube train meant that the second car in the set rode up above the trailing end of the driving car (telescoping), and landed on top of it. The third car split apart lengthwise and rode over the end of the second car. The driving car suffered the most damage, buckling at two points into a V shape, crushed between the wall and the weight of its train piling up behind it.

The recovery process was exceptionally difficult because of the confined space, tangled wreckage, heat and lack of air. It took more than 12 hours to free the last survivor. Because it was so difficult to reach the front cab, the body of the driver, Leslie Newson, was not recovered until four days later. All the emergency services were commended for their efforts.

Possible causes

The cause of the crash was never determined satisfactorily. The 56-year-old driver, Leslie Newson, had worked for London Underground since 1969, was in good health and did not consume alcohol or drugs. Police investigation showed that he did not have any reason to be suicidal and had £300 in his pocket, which he was intending to use to buy a car for his daughter after the end of his shift.

Newson was shown to have still been holding the dead man's handle, a device that immediately applies the brakes when released. He had not put his hands up to protect his face from the impact, and some witnesses claimed that he had increased the speed of the train before impact. Some witnesses stated that Newson was sitting upright in his seat and looking straight ahead as the train passed through the station. The state of the motor control gear as found after the accident indicated that power had been applied to the motors until within two seconds of the collision.

The post mortem examination did not find any evidence of a medical problem such as a stroke or heart attack that could have incapacitated Newson; he did not seem to have consumed alcohol, although testing for this was hampered by the four-and-a-half days it took to retrieve his body from the wreckage. Dr P. A. B. Raffle, the Chief Medical Officer of London Transport, gave evidence to the inquest and the official enquiry that Newson might have been paralysed temporarily by a rare kind of brain seizure (known as "akinesis with mutism" or "transient global amnesia"). In this situation, the brain continues to function and the individual remains aware although they cannot move physically.

The writer Laurence Marks, whose father died in the disaster, spent a year investigating it for The Sunday Times and later broadcast a Channel 4 documentary Me, My Dad and Moorgate on 4 June 2006. According to Marks, the crash was deliberate. He points to Newson's driver error in overrunning a platform at least once before the accident as a "dry run" for his own suicide. Although this theory was rejected by the coroner's jury whose verdict was accidental death, the Department of Environment official report stated (at para 101): "[T]he possibility that the collision was the outcome of a deliberate, suicidal act cannot be ignored, although there is no positive evidence to support it."[1] Newson was not a frequent drinker of alcohol, and the traces of alcohol found in his stomach were, according to Marks, the result of the "Dutch courage" required to see the act through. The pathological reports presented to the enquiry explained it was possible that Newson's stomach contents could have fermented during the four days his body was trapped in the stifling heat of the tunnel. This would explain the presence of trace amounts of alcohol.

Moorgate control

The accident resulted in the introduction of automatic controls to prevent the incident occurring again. The system on the London Underground is known as Moorgate Control or, more formally and generically, TETS (Trains Entering Terminal Stations) and was introduced at all dead-end tunnels and termini on manually driven lines on the underground system. It was also installed on the main-line trains that now use the former Northern Line platforms 9 and 10 at Moorgate.

Moorgate Control consists of a pair of standard train stop units as used to halt trains that pass red signals. One is installed at the entry to the station platform and one about halfway along the platform. The train stops are normally in the raised position. As a train approaches, it moves onto a section of track that initiates a time delay. At the conclusion of the delay, the train stop is lowered allowing the train to pass. The time delay is such that if the train is travelling at more than 10 mph (16 km/h) its trip cock will hit the train stop before it lowers. This exhausts the air from the braking system applying the emergency brakes. Both train stops have to be lowered to allow the train to leave the station.

In the scheme as originally proposed, the train stops were augmented by a resistor in the traction current supply that was intended to prevent the driver from accelerating once he had passed either (or both) train stops. The first run of the trial (the re-acceleration test) was claimed initially as a success as the driver indeed could not accelerate. However, it was then discovered that the train was trapped in the trial siding unable to leave. The resistor was not included in the scheme as implemented.

Moorgate Control is based on a special feature of signalling systems used provide for protected reduced overlap operation in areas signalled for close headways. One such system has been used on the City Railway in Sydney, New South Wales, since 1932.[2][3] On that railway timer-controlled train stops are positioned at and between signals and, used in conjunction with a special Low Speed signal indication.[4][5]. It was conceived by the English signal engineer, Mr C.B. Byles, who worked for New South Wales Government Railways from 1911 until 1929. On London Underground a similar effect was achieved simply by a signal not changing to green until a predetermined amount of time had passed since the train activated a track circuit. This signalling feature was not adopted for the purposes of preventing dead-end overruns until after the Moorgate incident.

Consequences for main line railways

The then national rail company, British Rail, became concerned at the possibility of a similar event happening at a terminus. An early consequence was to change the signalling system so that a colour light signal would not show green on approach to a dead-end terminus. This effectively regarded the fixed stop light at the buffers as part of the signalling system and required an appropriate 'caution' aspect to be displayed at the preceding signal. The displaying of a caution aspect in turn caused the Automatic Warning System horn to be sounded if AWS was fitted. This had to be acknowledged or the train brakes would be applied automatically. The eventual adoption of slow speed control when approaching dead-end platforms as part of Train Protection & Warning System was due to the Moorgate tube crash.


  • Holloway, Sally (1988). Moorgate: Anatomy of a Railway Disaster. David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-8913-0. 
  • Croome, D. & Jackson, A. Rails Through The Clay — A History Of London's Tube Railways (2nd. ed. 1993), London, Capital Transport Publishing, ISBN 1-85414-151-1.
  • BBC News account of the 1975 crash

  1. ^ a b c d McNaughton, Lt Col I K A (4 March 1976). "Report on the Accident at Moorgate Station" (PDF). Department of the Environment. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  2. ^ Dargan, James: Safe Signals - A History of N.S.W. Railway Signalling, 1989
  3. ^ Macfarlane, Ian: Railway Safety - Interlocking and Train Protection; Engineers Media, Sydney, 2004
  4. ^ State Rail Authority of New South Wales: Basic Safeworking Manual, 1993
  5. ^ Rail Infrastructure Corporation (now RailCorp) Network Rules, 2002

Coordinates: 51°31′06″N 0°05′18″W / 51.51828°N 0.08836°W / 51.51828; -0.08836

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