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Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Ladbroke Grove: The driver's story
Aftermath of the Ladbroke Grove railway crash
Michael Hodder passed a red signal
The Cullen report into the Ladbroke Grove rail disaster has reconstructed the movements of driver Michael Hodder on the morning of the crash.

The report was trying to establish why Mr Hodder, a 31-year-old father-of-two, went past a red light.

Mr Hodder died along with 30 others when his Thames Trains commuter service collided with a Great Western express outside London on 5 October 1999.

The report confirmed that the primary cause of the crash was Mr Hodder's failure to stop at a red signal as he left London.


There is no suggestion that driver Hodder deliberately ignored what was shown by that signal [109]

Lord Cullen
Lord Cullen said the reasons remain a partial mystery, but Mr Hodder was only partly to blame.

"His experience was slender, his training had significant shortcomings, and little can be known about his thought processes and habits," said the report.

The report said Mr Hodder rose at 0300BST on the morning of 5 October, at his home in Berkshire.

He came on duty at Paddington station at 0528BST.

He drove a Thames Train from Paddington to Reading, leaving Paddington at 0543BST.

He returned to Paddington driving the 0706BST from Reading, which arrived Paddington 0757BST.

Day of tragedy
5.28am: Michael Hodder starts work
6.03am: Great Western train leaves Cheltenham
8.06am: Thames Train leaves Paddington
8.08am: Thames Train passes signal SN109 at red
8.11am:Trains collide
Colleagues said there was nothing different about his spirits or behaviour that morning.

One said Mr Hodder was always smiling, and that morning was no different.

Mr Hodder drove the Thames Trains train out of Paddington Station at about 0806BST, bound for Bedwyn in Wiltshire.

He passed a signal, SN87, at single yellow.

At about 0808BST he passed signal SN109 on gantry 8 at red for danger, travelling at 41 mph and still accelerating.

Low sunlight

Lord Cullen said he thought Mr Hodder had believed he had a "proceed aspect" at this signal.

"There is no suggestion that driver Hodder deliberately ignored what was shown by that signal," he said.

It was "more probable" that he thought it was appropriate to accelerate.

Gantry holding Signal 109
Signal 109: Difficult to see its "red aspect"
Lord Cullen said unusually low, bright sunlight that morning would have obscured Mr Hodder's vision.

And the unusual configuration of signal SN109 impaired initial sighting of its red aspect.

This "might well have misled an inexperienced driver, such as Mr Hodder, who was looking at the signal at close range, into thinking it was not showing a red but a proceed aspect."

High speed train

Lord Cullen said there was a period of eight seconds when the red aspect of SN109 was unobstructed.

It might have been expected that Mr Hodder was concentrating on his duties and would have looked again at the signal, he said.

But if Mr Hodder was certain he had a proceed signal, he was unlikely to have double-checked.

The state of the points beyond signal 109 was such that the train was inevitably carried towards the Up Main line.

Meanwhile a high speed passenger train was approaching on the Up Main on green signals.

Both train drivers applied their brakes, but this had no significant effect on the impact.

The crash took place at a combined speed of about 130 mph, 700 metres beyond signal SN109. Both drivers were killed.

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