London Fire Brigade

LFB 150: 27 years since the fatal Purley train crash

04 March 2016

As we celebrate our 150th anniversary we're looking back at some of the most significant and some of the more unusual incidents that have taken place since we were formed in 1866.

Today (4 March) marks 27 years since the Purley train crash, which claimed the lives of five people and left 88 injured.

At 1339 on a rainy Saturday in 1989, a Littlehampton to Victoria express train crashed into the rear of a Horsham to Victoria bound train.

The collision derailed the train and six carriages careered down the embankment.

The trains should have been two-and-a-half minutes apart.

Local residents rushed to the accident scene, many using their own ladders and tools in a bid to rescue and reassure those trapped in the carriages.

Kevin Williams, who spoke to the BBC at the time, said: "We were trying to break the glass to get people out. We had a section which was a first class section of the train, which we had to break the doors off to get people out."

A Department of Transport railway accident report stated a Brigade pump was delayed due to "the number of private motor cars parked in the narrow cul-de-sac" close to the embankment.

The clean-up operation took five days and the Brigade remained on site until Thursday, 9 March 1989.

Exercise Unified Response

The largest ever exercise in our history – Exercise Unified Response (EUR) – has test first responders on a building collapse on to the train network.

EUR coincided between two historical train incidents – the Moorgate tube disaster and Purley – showing the scope of work our firefighters do and that our crews must continue to learn from the past and train for future events.