Ten Years On, Grayrigg Train Crash Driver Still Thinks About Disaster

23 February 2017, 05:42 | Updated: 23 February 2017, 07:15

Grayrigg train crash driver iain black

Ten years on from the Grayrigg rail crash, the train's driver Iain Black still thinks about the disaster every day.

Mr Black was hailed a hero after he stayed at the controls when the train careered off the rails and down a steep embankment.

Despite suffering a broken neck he made a mobile phone call to his girlfriend, a manager with Virgin Trains, to stop all other trains on the line.

He was initially given a 5% chance of survival but has gone on to make a good recovery.

The 56-year-old, from Dumbarton in West Dunbartonshire, still has clear memories of the crash itself, which happened on his first shift back at work after returning from holiday in Spain the previous day.

He said: ''The train came off the road as we call it and went down the hill and I remember seeing trees appear and disappear and smash to pieces.

''When it came off the road I bounced into the ceiling and broke my neck. When the train landed I was unconscious for about a minute.

''After that I came round and didn't realise the extent of the damage but I knew I had to stop other trains so I phoned my wife who is a train manager and she knew what to do.''

It took around two hours for emergency services to get into the cab to rescue Mr Black and he said he got through the experience by staying on the line to his wife Janice, who at the time was his girlfriend.

After being rescued he was airlifted to Royal Preston Hospital for treatment.

His neck was broken in three places and he had to wear a Halo Brace for several months, needing 24-hour care for six months.

Although he has made a good recovery and is a regular gym goer, he still has continual pain in his neck and the top three vertebrae of his neck have fused together leading to arthritis in the bottom three.

He said: ''Every morning I wake up with a sore neck and when you get the pain you realise it was caused by the crash. I think about it every day, it's hard not to.''

Mr Black also has reminders of the disaster in his sitting room, where a photo of the derailed train and the Virgin emblem from the front of the train hang on the walls.

On the anniversary of the disaster he and his wife observe a minute's silence at the time of the crash.

He was off sick for 18 months and returned to work in an office job as his concentration levels have been affected.

However, he took early retirement at the age of 54 after being told that his neck was deteriorating.

Since the crash Mr Black has developed a fear of flying, though he says he feels safe travelling by train.

He said: ''Rail safety has improved in the past ten years though you cannot take your eye off the ball. You only have to look at the Rail Accident Investigation Branch website to see there is still work to be done, but generally with the technology, and I think lessons have been learned about track maintenance.''

Mr Black still keeps in touch with the paramedic who treated him, as well as with George Masson, the son of Margaret Masson, 84, from Glasgow, who died in the crash, and David Lewis, the Network Rail track supervisor at Grayrigg,

After the crash, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson described the driver as ''a hero''.

In June 2015 Mr Black was given a special contribution honour at the Scottish Transport Awards a month after retiring from Virgin Trains.