A crowded commuter train slammed into a crash barrier during morning rush hour at a London station Tuesday, killing one person and injuring 248. British Rail suggested brake failure might have caused the accident.
The crash revived charges that Britain’s Conservative government has skimped on the state-run rail network’s safety to save money. The government denied that.
Critics said the 10-car train, carrying about 1,000 passengers, was overcrowded.
Firefighters took nearly five hours to cut free 15 passengers trapped in the two mangled center cars. A man in his 20s, who had suffered severe injuries, was cut from the wreckage alive but died on his way to the hospital, officials said.
The accident occurred as the train arrived in the Cannon Street station in London’s financial district from Sevenoaks, about 20 miles southeast of London. British Rail said the train was traveling about only 5 m.p.h. when it struck the crash barrier.
“The driver put the brake on in the normal way, and the train did not stop,” said Chris Green, director of Network Southeast, the busiest section of the national railroad.
“There could be any number of reasons. . . . There will be a full inquiry,” he said.
Passenger David Lloyd, 20, in the first car, said he heard the driver call out, “Hold on, hold on!” as the train pulled into the station at 8:44 a.m.
He said there was a deafening crash, and he leaped from the train and saw the driver looking dazed.
“He kept saying, ‘The brakes failed! The brakes failed!’ ” Lloyd said.
The impact hurled the sixth car on top of the fifth, flinging passengers around the cars and trapping some in wreckage. The injured included dozens of passengers who were already standing, ready to get off the train.
Green said that of the 248 people injured, 30 of them were seriously hurt.
Cannon Street, one of London’s landmark train stations, was built by the Victorians. It is in the heart of the City of London, which is the capital’s one-square-mile financial district.