Train named in memory of victims of 1968 rail disaster

A train has been named to honour the memory of eleven people who died and 45 others who were injured in a tragic level crossing accident in the Staffordshire village of Hixon in 1968.

Stafford Train Station, where a name plate was being unveilled on a train to remember the Hixon Rail crash where lives were lost. Left to right: Sue Clowes from Macclesfield, whose late husband John, lost his parents Dennis and Evelyn in the crash, former police officer David Baldwin and Janet Hopkins from Marlowe , who lost her sister Margaret Griffiths
Stafford Train Station, where a name plate was being unveilled on a train to remember the Hixon Rail crash where lives were lost. Left to right: Sue Clowes from Macclesfield, whose late husband John, lost his parents Dennis and Evelyn in the crash, former police officer David Baldwin and Janet Hopkins from Marlowe , who lost her sister Margaret Griffiths

The CrossCountry train was officially unveiled, with the nameplate 'Hixon, 6th January 1968', at Stafford Railway Station.

Janet Hopkins travelled from Marlow for the ceremony. She lost her sister Margaret Griffiths in the crash, and was joined by Sue Clowes from Macclesfield, whose late husband John lost his parents Dennis and Evelyn.

The nameplate will now be seen by people travelling across the country on services ranging from Scotland to Bournemouth. It honours the people who died and those who were injured in the rail disaster.

It was a day many are unlikely to forget when in clear visibility the 11.30am British Rail express, travelling from Manchester to Euston, collided with a heavy transporter carrying a 120-ton electrical transformer over an automatic crossing in Hixon.

Janet Hopkins who lost her sister, Margaret Griffiths, in the crash

The train, running at 75mph, was carrying 300 passengers and as a result of the collision the train driver, the second man and a spare driver in the locomotive were killed as well as eight passengers.

Forty four passengers and a restaurant car attendant were also injured, six of them seriously. The incident led to an enquiry which saw changes made to level crossings across Britain and the one at Hixon was later replaced by a bridge.

Local people have already created their own memorial garden in the village to commemorate those who lost their lives.

CrossCountry and Network Rail have used volunteer hours to remove damaged and overgrown trees in the garden and have helped with its upkeep.

A replica nameplate has also been presented to the community and displayed in the Memorial Hall.

CrossCountry have also given £3,000 to support the local memorial and which will provide for a new shed for equipment and go towards replacement of a vandalised window in the adjoining church.

Network Rail has matched the contribution, and Avanti West Coast and North Staffs Community Rail Partnership have added a further £1,500. Train drivers' union Aslef has also raised £1,385 towards the project.

Pete Waterman with Tim Shoveller, of Network Rail, and Tom Joiner of CrossCountry

Another replica nameplate has been provided by Alstom for presentation to Pete Waterman, to be auctioned to raise money for The Railway Benefit Fund which supports railway men and women. The music producer, from Walsall, was at the ceremony to receive the nameplate.

Tom Joyner, CrossCountry’s managing director, said: “We are delighted to be able to help the people of Hixon continue their work to remember the tragic events of 1968.

"Although such incidents are rare, their impact is often felt beyond the railway boundary, so it is especially pleasing to see so many industry colleagues coming together to support this project and the local community.”

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “The naming of this train is an apt tribute to all the individuals, families and community who were affected by the tragic events which unfolded at Hixon.

"We always prioritise safety across our rail network, to protect passengers and staff, and ensure the lessons are learned from these devastating accidents.”

Tim Shoveller, managing director of Network Rail’s North West and Central region, said: “While safety on the railway has progressed enormously since 1968, it is essential we remember the lessons from tragic events so they are never repeated, and we can continue to improve for the future.”

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