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view document PDF (0.7Mb download)Report on the Collision that occurred on 11th December 1981 near Seer Green in the London Midland Region British Railways

Document Summary

The report into the collision between a passenger train and an empty stock working at Seer Green in 1981.

This document was published on 31st January 1983 by Department of Transport.

It was written by Major C. F. Rose.


This item is linked to the Accident at Seer Green on 11th December 1981


The original document format was Stapled Book, and comprised 22 pages.

This document was kindly sourced from Stuart Johnson and is in our Accident reports collection. It was added to the Archive on 11th October 2006.

Copyright Information

This document is Crown Copyright, and is subject to the terms governing the reproduction of crown copyright material. Depending on the status and age of the original document, you may need an OPSI click-use license if you wish to reproduce this material, and other restrictions may apply. Please see this explanation for further details.

"Commencing on Tuesday, 8th December 1981 the weather in southern England became exceptionally wintery, with temperatures well below zero and frequent heavy falls of snow. With the first heavy snow on the Tuesday, the branches of trees in the railway cutting near Seer Green, on the London (Marylebone) to Banbury line, became weighed down by snow and some overhung the line and were brushed by trains. This was reported by drivers and subsequent trains were cautioned by the signalmen on either side. Conditions improved slightly on the Wednesday and Thursday, with no further reports of overhanging trees, but during the early hours of Friday, llth December there were further heavy falls of snow and around 08.00 the snow was still falling, driven by a strong north wind, and with ground temperatures well below zero. At about this time, the 07.25 Marylebone to Princes Risborough, a special empty stock train formed of four diesel multiple-unit vehicles, came to a stand on the Down Line in the cutting when the driver saw what he took to be a substantial tree branch obstructing the line. He telephoned the signalman at High Wycombe and said that he would clear the obstruction and that this would take a few minutes. Neither he nor his guard took any other action to protect the train.

Meanwhile, the following train, the 07.31 Marylebone to Banbury passenger train, had arrived at Gerrards Cross where the signalman, who although qualified was inexperienced, had just arrived and opened the signal box. After telling the driver about the reports of overhanging trees in the cutting, the signalman tried to clear the signal controlling entry to the signal section ahead but was unable to do so. The signal lever was in fact locked electrically by the occupation of track circuits in the section by the empty stock train but the signalman, misreading or failing to comprehend the indications shown on his signal box diagram, assumed that the signal mechanism had frozen and authorised the driver to pass the signal at Danger. It was only a matter of minutes before he realised that he had made a mistake but it was already too late to stop the train.

The driver of the passenger train should have proceeded with caution but drove too fast for the conditions. Entering the cutting, he must have caught sight of the stationary train ahead and applied his brakes, but his train was still travelling at about 30 mile/h when it hit the back of the other one. The leading vehicle of the passenger train forced its way under the bodywork of the rear vehicle of the empty stock train, lifting it into the air, and came to rest having over-ridden the buffers of the rear vehicle by about seven yards and having pushed the entire empty stock train, which had its brakes applied, forward some 75 yards. The impacting of the two trains crushed the forward part of the leading coach of the passenger train, trapping the driver and a number of passengers. I much regret to report that the driver and three of the passengers, a young man of 17 and two schoolboys, received fatal injuries. Four other passengers and the guard of the passenger train were injured and were taken to Wrexham Park Hospital, Slough."

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