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1997: Six dead in Southall train disaster
An Intercity 125 has ploughed into a freight train in west London, killing six and injuring more than 150.

British Transport Police say they have arrested the driver of the Swansea-Paddington service to question him in connection with manslaughter charges.

The crash - which passengers said occurred with no warning - happened at 1315 BST near Southall station.

Three inquiries have been launched - all focusing on whether the passenger express passed a signal at red or was mistakenly shown a green light.

It is believed the 1032 to Paddington was travelling close to the maximum speed on the Southall approach of 125mph (201 kmh) as it hit the empty goods train being shunted across the main line.

It's a miracle that more people were not killed
Rescue worker
The express was fitted with the sophisticated Automatic Train Protection System - which should prevent trains passing a red light - but it is not known if it was switched on.

A transport police spokesman said the driver of the train had voluntarily attended Southall police station to be interviewed about the accident.

The speed of the impact caused the first two carriages of the Intercity train to crumple completely as they hit the freight wagons.

"It's a miracle that more people were not killed - close up the damage is unbelievable," said one rescue worker.

Andy Reynolds, assistant divisional officer with the London Fire Brigade, said it was a scene of complete carnage.

Sixteen passengers were trapped under the wreckage and it took firemen several hours to free them.

The injured were taken to four London hospitals - 13 of them were described as being in a serious condition.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott arrived while the rescuers were still working.

"I have asked for an urgent report on the crash - in the meantime if there are any immediate lessons to be learned, we will of course take the appropriate action," he said.

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Watch/Listen
Southall rail crash
Rescuers had to cut passengers free

Whole carriages are upended by crash impact



In Context
Manslaughter charges against the driver, Larry Harrison, were dropped in July 1999.

But the accident inquiry found the primary cause of the accident to be Mr Harrison's failure to respond to two signals warning him of the freight train on the track ahead.

He could not explain why he had missed the signals, but the report said he may have "dozed off".

There were two safety systems on the train which could have prevented the tragedy - the basic Automatic Warning System (AWS) and a trial version of the more advanced Automatic Train Protection (ATP).

But the AWS was broken and the ATM switched off because the driver was not trained how to use it.

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