King's Cross fire in the London Underground November 18, 1987 : a report
The King's Cross tube station is one of the busiest and most complex in the London Underground network. In 1987, an average of 250,000 passengers were carried every weekday, with 100,000 in each of the peak periods 07:30 - 10:00 and 16:00 - 18:30. Up until 18 November 1987, fire had only killed one person in London's Underground since the Second World War. However, a serious fire in the Oxford Circus station in November 1984 prompted an independent report to criticise lax fire precautions. The report concluded by saying "luck has a habit of running out." At 19:45 on Wednesday, November 18, 1987, the luck of the London Underground ran out. It was the worst fire in the history of the London Underground, with 31 people dying and many more seriously injured. The fire began in a mixture of grease and debris which had accumulated on the running tracks of the Piccadilly line escalator number four during its entire operating life. It was later found that the escalator had never been completely cleaned since being installed in 1939. Ignition was attributed to a discarded match of a smoker, which fell between the tread and the skirting board of the escalator. Even though smoking is banned in the Underground, passengers are known to light up whilst riding the escalators to the surface. For twenty minutes after ignition the fire grew only slowly, eye-witnesses suggesting that no one expected a major incident to result. At 19:45, disaster struck in a fraction of a second. During the flashover, eyewitnesses said a huge ball of flame shot from the throat of the escalator shaft across the ceiling of the booking hall. Then all was total darkness and searing heat, the electricity went off, and the whole concourse was shrouded in impenetrable smoke. In the following hours chaos and confusion reigned, both in the station and on the streets above. A full public inquiry was initiated by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Beginning on February 2, 1988, the inquiry lasted about five months, the longest of its kind in British history. Our report contains research into several aspects of this event. Included are conclusions of the official investigation into the cause of the fire behaviour. The investigation uncovered a previously unknown effect termed the "trench effect". We also cover the serious disregard to fire safety displayed by London Underground Limited. It is obvious that if better safety procedures had been implemented prior to the fire, on the night that luck ran out, every life at King's Cross station may well have been saved.
SubjectsField of Research::09 - Engineering::0905 - Civil Engineering::090599 - Civil Engineering not elsewhere classified
- Engineering: Reports