This Day In London’s History
1991: A packed rush hour train carrying over one thousand commuters collides with the buffers at Cannon Street station.
At 8:44am on 8th January 1991, the 07:58 train from Sevenoaks failed to stop when pulling into Cannon Street station and hit the buffers at the central London terminus at about 5 miles per hour. Despite the relatively low speed, the impact caused the infrastructure of some of the carriages to disintegrate, resulting in several hundred casualties (including two fatalities).
Despite early speculation that the train’s braking system had been faulty, the official report into the crash concluded that the brakes were working correctly, but that the driver had “failed to brake properly”. It also emerged that the driver, 25 year-old Maurice Graham, had traces of cannabis in his blood when tested three days after the crash, but there was not sufficient evidence to suggest that this had been a factor in the accident.
However although ‘driver error’ was determined as the cause of the collision, this did not explain the catastrophic damage to the carriages (and subsequent casualty-count) from such a low-speed collision. Ultimately this was attributed to the age and poor design of the antiquated rolling stock, with the most severely damaged carriages having been built upon chassis from the 1930s and the old-style ‘slam doors’ introducing additional weaknesses into the structure.
The original Cannon Street station building was covered with a huge ornate glass roof, which was removed to the countryside at the start of the Second World War to avoid damage. The location that it was moved to was subsequently bombed, destroying the glass roof completely.
Londoner Of The Week
Owner of what must be by far the longest nose of any Londoner Of The Week so far, Maggie May must be relieved to be home. We sincerely hope that her unexpected visit to the dognappers has not left her too traumatised.
One Thing You Must Do In London This Week
We visited the David Hockney exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery yesterday and were very impressed by the substantial collection of works on display – over 150 portraits spanning Hockney’s entire career, more-or-less justifying the £9 admission fee (in our opinion). It’s only on for a couple more weeks (until the 21st), so if you’re interested in that sort of thing you should book your tickets smartish.
‘Fake model’ picture of Cannon Street station taken from Stephen Fulljames’s Flickr photostream under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 licence.