image= [[Image:Moorgate.jpg|300px|Moorgate station]] | title= Moorgate tube crash | date= [[28 February]] [[1975]] 08:46 | location= [[Moorgate station|Moorgate]] | line = [[Northern City Line]]<br>([[London Underground]]) | cause= Unknown | trains= 1 | pax= | deaths= 43+ | injuries= The 'Moorgate tube crash' was a railway accident on the London Underground which occurred at 8.46am on 28 February 1975 in London.

A southbound Northern City Line train 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, and several more subsequently died from severe injuries, in what was the greatest loss of life on the Underground in peacetime. The cause of the incident was never conclusively determined.

The crash had two consequences for the London Underground. Firstly, the southern end of the Northern City Line platforms (where the crash happened) was extensively rebuilt. Secondly, automatic systems for stopping trains were introduced into dead-ends on the tube, regardless of whether the driver brakes the train. These systems are known as 'Moorgate control'.

Details of the incident

The train was the 8:39am from Drayton Park on the Northern City Line, terminating at platform nine of Moorgate station seven minutes later. At that time, plans were afoot for the service, previously known as the Great Northern & City, to be transferred to British Rail (it is now operated by First Capital Connect).

Instead of braking on arrival, the train appeared to accelerate, taking the crossover at about 35&nbsp;mph (56&nbsp;km/h). At the end of the platform was a 66&nbsp;ft (20&nbsp;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&nbsp;mph and then into the wall. The first emergency call was received at 8:53am.

The incident would have not been so bad had the train been in a tube-sized tunnel, but the overrun tunnel was built to house main-line trains and was 16&nbsp;ft (4.9&nbsp;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, 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 was over 12 hours before the last survivor was freed, and five days before the front cab could be reached and the driver's (Les Newson) body recovered. All the emergency services were highly commended for their efforts throughout.

Investigation into the cause

The cause of the crash was never satisfactorily determined. The 56-year-old driver, Leslie Newson, had worked for London Underground since 1969, was in good health and took no alcohol or drugs. Police investigation showed that he had no 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. Not only had he not even put his hands up to protect his face from the impact, but some witnesses even claimed that he had actually increased the speed of the train. This could have been due to the fact that on the previous day Newson had been working a „C“ Stock train on the Circle Line which has a single master controller for motoring and braking. On that controller you push the handle AWAY from you not towards you as on the 1938 Stock involved.

The autopsy found no evidence of a medical problem such as a stroke or heart attack that could have incapacitated Newson; he did not appear to have taken alcohol, although post mortem testing for this was hampered by the 4½ days it took to retrieve his body from the wreckage. It has been suggested that Newson was temporarily paralysed 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 physically move. This would certainly go some way towards explaining why Newson held down the dead man's handle right up until the point of impact and made no attempt to shield his face. This explanation also supports witness statements that Newson was sitting upright in his seat and looking straight ahead as the train passed through the station. On the other hand, railway writer Piers Connor, himself a former driver who knew Newson slightly, has suggested[] that his attention simply wandered from his driving at exactly the wrong moment. (This was also the most likely explanation for a similar accident to an empty train at Tooting Broadway in 1971). This theory is quite unlikely though. Passengers onboard the train testified that the unusually high speed at the cross-over point in the tracks threw many from their seats and some standing passengers fell to the floor. Had Newson's mind been elsewhere, it is likely that this jolt would have brought him round.

According to the writer Laurence Marks &mdash; whose father died in the disaster and who 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 &mdash; the accident 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. Traces of alcohol found in the stomach of an almost teetotal Newson were, according to Marks, the result of the Dutch courage required to see the act through. This theory is, however, not widely held, having been discounted by the two official investigations into the crash. Pathological reports explained that it was wholly possible that driver Newson's stomach contents could have fermented during the 5 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 led to the introduction of automatic controls to prevent the incident occurring again. The system, known as 'Moorgate Control' on National Rail, or 'TETS' ('T'rains 'E'ntering 'T'erminal 'S'tations) on the London Underground, was introduced on all dead end tunnels and termini throughout 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 half-way 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 tripcock 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 initially heralded 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.

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 automatically applied. The eventual adoption of slow speed control when appoaching dead-end platforms as part of Train Protection & Warning System can be traced back to the Moorgate tube crash.

The UK punk band Flux Of Pink Indians made a parody about the disaster entitled „tube disasters“.

The novel 253 by Geoff Ryman describes a very similar fictional tube crash, and may have been inspired by the Moorgate disaster.


* first=Sally | last=Holloway | authorlink= | coauthors= | year=1988 | title=Moorgate: Anatomy of a Railway Disaster | edition= | publisher= David and Charles | location= | id=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.

* [ BBC News account of the 1975 crash] *The [ Railways Archive web site] has a scanned copy of the official accident report in PDF. [ This direct link] seems to work sometimes.