On Wednesday 14 February 2001,
the 18.35 Brighton to Portsmouth Harbour train crashed into a van
at a remote occupation crossing near Old Salts Farm Road, Lancing.
The Connex train was on a routine rush hour journey when it hit the van just before 7pm. The front wheels were ripped off, and the carriage left the rails, as the van was completely crushed by the 3 coach train. Miraculously the van driver survived with only slight injuries, and was taken to hospital with three of the 35 train passengers who suffered minor injuries.
Visability on this stretch of line is good, as it is a long straight section, and the train, which had been accelerating from Shoreham station managed to slow down considerably before the impact. Despite the remote location, the emergency services managed to get right up to where the train had stopped to rescue the passengers. The crossing is a private one for the local farmer, and why the van was there is so far a mystery.
Replacement bus services ran between Worthing and Shoreham whilst the line was cleared. Once the train was re-railed, the rails had to be ultrasonically checked for any fractures before theline could re-open.
The exclusive photographs below were taken nearly 24 hours after the incident, when the damaged train was put on a replacement wheel-set so that it could be removed. The descending fog added to the bleakness of the setting as the evening closed in.
The view from the crossing looking towards where the damaged train had come to rest on the left (westbound) track, with the breakdown train on the eastbound track. Litter from the accident is strewn along the trackside.
This is all that remains of the van, moved to the side of the track at the crossing.
The damage to the guards van, half-way down the train.
The front carriage of the train, propped up on blocks and awaiting a new set of wheels, with damage clearly visible to the front. The front offside windscreen is shattered.
As darkness sets in, the breakdown crew lift the replacement bogie onto the track in front of the stricken train.
Manoeuvring the new wheelset in as the light continues to fade.
The train is lowered gently onto its temporary wheels, so that it can been taken away for repairs, the track mended, and the line be re-opened for business.
One of the buses running the replacement service leaves Lancing station.
February 16 saw some improvement in the weather, and for the first time the scene was visible from the Grinstead Lane bridge. This is the view at 9am, as repair crews start replacing the damaged track.
The scene from the crossing where the accident happened, looking along the damaged section of track with machinery and men working flat out to get the line re-opened.
The crossing where the accident took place, looking along Old Salts Farm Road, with one of the works trains straddling the crossing on the undamaged eastbound section.
Working hard where the crashed train had been the night before. The old track has been removed, and new sleepers laid ready to take the rails.
Workmen standing where the front of the 18.35 had come to rest 38 hours previously.
One of the signs at Lancing station announcing no trains running because of the accident.