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29 Hurt in Crash When Train Goes Wrong Way

August 1, 1990

READING, England (AP) _ A rush-hour passenger train smashed head-on into a stationary commuter train at a station west of London Wednesday, injuring 29 people.

British Rail said a three-car train entering Reading station from Tonbridge at 20 mph was switched to the wrong platform and hit the front of a stationary eight-car commuter train from Reading to London.

The driver of the Tonbridge train was in critical condition at Royal Berkshire Hospital with leg, head and back injuries. One passenger with leg injuries was also hospitalized. The others were released after treatment.

Investigators said they were puzzled by the crash. Automatic equipment should have prevented a train from running into an occupied platform.

They said human error or faults with signals or points were believed to have caused the morning crash at the station, 35 miles from London. The Tonbridge train should have stopped alongside the London-bound train.

Both trains were crowded but all injuries were on the Tonbridge train, whose passengers were standing ready to get off and were thrown forward, most suffering bruises and cuts.

Bernadette Currie said she had just stood up, preparing to leave the train, when she was ″jolted forward and hit the wood of the sliding door. Some of my teeth were knocked out.″

The Tonbridge driver was trapped by his legs in the crushed cab for more than two hours while firefighters cut him free. He was conscious throughout and talked to his rescuers as he received painkillers and blood transfusions.

″His feet were twisted, so it was impossible to free him immediately. We used hydraulic equipment to bend back the metal, like opening a tin,″ said senior fire officer Lyn Ashfield.

″He had lost a lot of blood, but we kept talking to him to take his mind off the pain,″ he said.

Debra Whitehead, 23, a passenger on the Tonbridge train who suffered a sprained neck, said: ″Everyone was thrown forward and we were all just sitting there, wondering what had happened.

″I was in the third carriage from the front, but there was no panic, just confusion,″ she said.

British Rail has had two serious crashes in the past two years.

Faulty wiring in a signal led to 35 people being killed and more than 100 injured in a three-train crash at Clapham Junction in south London during rush hour on Dec. 12, 1988.

Driver error was blamed for a two-train crash in March 1989 near Purley station on London’s southern outskirts in which five people died and 94 were injured.

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