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Maidstone East train crash 25th anniversary

Lucille Gallagher stood annoyed as a station worker told her the news no trains were running.

After he asked her "'Ave you seen the station love?" she looked round and saw the walk-through tunnel at Maidstone East "reduced to what looked like rizzlas".

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the day a freight train laden with 900 tons of steel cargo came crashing into the railway station, almost destroying it.

The freight train demolished Maidstone East station in 1993
The freight train demolished Maidstone East station in 1993

Driver Graham Barnes had drunk the equivalent of a bottle of vodka when his train derailed at high speed coming into the station shortly after 2am on September 6, 1993 causing almost £2 million in damage.

A number of the 15 carriages jack-knifed on approach and entered the station sideways, demolishing all but one of the metal canopies and causing considerable damage to the platform.

Fortunately, apart from Mr Barnes suffering bruised ribs, no-one was injured.

Immediately after the crash, the driver escaped from his cabin to call the signalman who then (surprisingly by today’s standards) invited him to the signal box for a cup of tea before emergency services arrived.

The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993
The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993
The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993
The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993
The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993
The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993

An investigation concluded that with its brakes set incorrectly for the heavy load, the locomotive hit a curve in the tracks at such speed – estimated at 60mph in a 25mph zone – that the wagons overturned.

Mr Barnes was later jailed for 12 months for endangering the safety of passengers, causing criminal damage, and driving with excess alcohol.

It cost £700,000 and seven months to repair Maidstone East while customers were forced to use replacement bus services instead, adding time to their journeys.

Nearby residents and commuters were shocked to find out about the wreckage later in the morning.

The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993
The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993
The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993
The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993
The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993
The aftermath of the Maidstone East train crash in 1993

Lucille Gallagher, who remembers seeing the aftermath and thought it looked like cigarette rolling papers strewn about, said: “I was going to Victoria that morning, went to buy my ticket and was a bit miffed that your man was telling me that there were no trains running.

“He tried a couple of times and then said “’Ave you seen the station love?” I remember taking a glance and seeing the walk-through tunnel reduced to what looked like rizzlas stuck together and falling out of the pack.”

Chris Galton said: “At the time I was living in Thornhill Place and heard the noise during the night. I didn’t know what had happened until I tried to get the train to work in Bearsted the following morning.”


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