Great Heck Rail Disaster 20 Year Anniversary

28/02/21 Great Heck Rail Disaster 20 Year Anniversary

LNER, together with Network Rail and Freightliner, hosted a virtual memorial on Sunday 28 February 2021 to commemorate the 20 year anniversary of the Great Heck train crash.

To watch the video of this memorial, please see below or click here. To read the messages of condolence we collected, please scroll down.

If you have any questions, please email them to


A service was also held in Selby Abbey on the afternoon of Sunday 28 February 2021 to commemorate those who died and were injured. To watch the video of that service please click here. 

On the morning of 28 February 2001 an InterCity 225 passenger train operated by GNER was derailed into the path of an oncoming freight train. Ten people lost their lives that day including the Drivers of both trains, and 82 were seriously injured.

It remains the worst rail disaster of the 21st century in the United Kingdom.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and national lockdown, we hosted a virtual memorial to mark the 20th anniversary of this tragedy rather, than meeting in person. It was broadcast from Great Heck and Newcastle on Sunday 28 February 2021 at 10am. Wreaths were laid, readings given and we paused as our train passed Great Heck and sounded its horn in dedication to those we lost.

Graham North Thank you for the phone call my dear and forever friend (close GNER colleagues will know who. If you hadn't called I would have been on the train with my railway colleagues going to a meeting in London to get the timetables back to T-12. As it was I had to travel back from London later that morning and take my place as one of the GNER Service Disruption Team.
Joanne Weddle-Wheatley John and I shared each others lives in the final chapter of his life and had so many amazing ideas for our future together. The morning of the 28th took that away and life certainly changed thereafter. I don't have those long years of memories that others may have, but the memories I do have are so special and remain forever strong. I'm so grateful to those who have always taken the time to remember that tragic day and this anniversary, along with future ones, will always be commemorated for the memory of those that were lost, those who survived and those who were involved. I miss you x
British Transport Police  On the 20th anniversary of the Great Heck rail disaster British Transport Police remember those who lost their lives and those affected by this tragic event.
Karl Simpson  I was one of the police officers that day and I have recently retired. That day impacted on me more than any other incident I attended. I cannot imagine the impact however on the families that lost loved ones and those passengers that survived.
My thoughts are with you today and every day.
Geordie The Great Heck Rail Disaster is one of the worst rail accidents in the 21st century. Over 10 people sadly lost their lives including members of the railway family. They are gone but are not forgotten. 
Kenny Black  To all affected by this sad tragedy, even though it’s been twenty years it’s seems like yesterday and yet a lifetime since we spoke and laughed together. Love to all affected you’ll never be forgotten. ❤️
Andi Day Thinking of all that died in this horrible incident, I helped clear this up as part of Toton breakdown gang - a truly horrendous sight! Still think about those poor poor people, never stood a chance! RIP all.
Philip Greenwood  I will never forget that day as long as I’m alive, lost a good friend and colleges.Worked with the other freightliner driver for years massive respect for his achievements in returning to work like he has. RIP to all the others also.
#first ten at HH That made it what it is today Many others will try but never will so much be achieved by so few. A very sad day if your a railway man full stop 🛑 
Simone Fearon  As I approach my 50th 20 years ago I was approaching my 30th birthday when heck happened one week before. As always I remember the date of the tragedy I wonder how they would of been celebrating a special birthday witnessing a wedding or playing with grandchildren. So to those who can’t a glass is always raised to remember them and to be thankful that I am able to do so never to be forgotten . 
Tim Shakerley Extending thoughts and prayers for the staff, passengers and colleagues and their families who tragically lost their lives 20 years ago.  You will not be forgotten.
 Claire Thompson  To John, Ray and Paul I just wanted to let you know that you will never be forgotten you will remain in my heart always and I treasure the memories you gave me. John you would always smile and stop to chat with all the staff and Ray I remember the magic wallet you had and you would make me laugh as a young girl just starting my career. Paul you where so kind and I remember chatting to you the day before never knowing that would be the last time i would ever see you. You truly were all very special and unique and as time goes by I tell the newcomers to the railways about my lovely memories of you all. Today my thoughts are with the families of these three very special men and the people effected on that day 20 years ago. 
John Grainger I remember the day well... thinking of the lives lost and those injured, as well as those in the emergency services and everyone else involved in caring for those involved.  The best memorial is to ensure we remember this day and strive for an ever safer railway - every single day - John
Jacqueline Starr, CEO, Rail Delivery Group On the twentieth anniversary of this tragic incident, our thoughts and those of everyone working in the railway are with the loved ones of those who lost their lives and were injured that day. Passenger safety is still of paramount importance and we, with our people and the entire industry, are united in continuing to work towards keeping Britain’s railway one of the safest major railways in the world and ensuring accidents such as these remain rare.
Becky Dunn Remembering Steve Dunn and others that tragically lost their lives and all of the families and friends who lost their loved ones. Ever grateful to the many who helped that day and the weeks and months following, both professional and those that lived in the village or were there and gave their time. Steve, you are forever in our hearts and thoughts, all our love Mum, Dad, Mandy and Becky xxxx
Jan Powell Sadly missed.
Alan Hyde A dreadful day that I’ll never forget. Deepest condolences to the bereaved. RIP
David Kelly A day I will personally never forget, the outpouring of grief in the Newcastle depot was immense, the sadness beyond words and the devastation and loss was felt by everyone. Three good lads John, Ray and Paul were only doing their jobs and never came home that day, may the all continue to rest in peace.
Mick Whelan Remembering those that passed their families and friends and all those impacted by this terrible tragedy.May all those that work and travel on our railways always be safe.
Mick Whelan General Secretary ASLEF
Dave Calfe    President              ASLEF 
Malcolm Austwick I was a member of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and attended this tragic accident.
My thoughts are with those who lost their lives as a result of the accident, and also with the families who lost loved one's.
Ian Prosser HM Chief Inspector of Railways  This was a terrible and tragic incident and our thoughts today are with those who lost
love ones, colleagues and friends. Significant improvements to reducing line side incursion risk have been made
since, as we continue to strive to improve safety on the railway.
Judith Cairncross Firstly, I would like to thank LNER, Network Rail and Freightliner for the compassion and organising the memorial events to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Great Heck Disaster .

In memory of my brother Raymond Robson.

Time goes by but the pain is still real, unbelievable 20 years have past. 20 years without my baby brother who was the life and soul of our family. The laughter died that day, our lives changed that day. Our mother never got over losing her only son, my husband lost his best friend and my daughter an adoring uncle.

Raymond lived and loved his job. Working for GNER from leaving school. He was a people person and enjoyed the interaction with the public. He loved real ale, loud music and travel.

He wasn’t a saint and wouldn’t speak to me for days because I always called him Raymond and he preferred Ray.  It would be a third party conversation but in good humour. He loved  to tell a storey starting on a Monday and not finishing the punch line till Friday, just to wind me up. He was a good friend to many.

Memories never fade of the big lad.

Big sister Judith.
Paul Boyle The day of the disaster and images of the day are so vivid to me that it seems like only yesterday, so much destruction and heart-breaking loss but also the unity of our railway family and how the tragedy brought us all closer together. Every year on the anniversary of the disaster, I pause and think of those who tragically lost their lives, their families and my colleagues John, Paul & Ray, rest in peace. 
Christopher Garnett My thoughts and prayers are with all the all the families and others, who lost loved ones at Great Heck. My thanks go to the amazing GNER staff, who magnificently kept the train service running with such dignity over the following days.
Daz Harrison A morning at Berwick -upon -Tweed I will never forget. Hearing about my brothers and sisters and passengers being involved in this tragedy.
Never forgotten always in our hearts. 
Christopher Boyd (Retired Driver Based at Newcastle) Thinking of all those that lost their life as a result of this tragic event.  Thinking too of all those whose lives have been, and are still being effected by this incident. 
Colin Childs I arrived on site soon after the accident, it was quickly obvious that lives had been lost. Today we not only remember them R.I.P but those family’s left behind.
Kay  Spent some very cold days on a police search team. I’ve never forgotten that terrible incident. RIP 
J Doherty In loving memory of John Weddle. Sending love and best wishes to his very special family from all of our family xxx
Luke Putland As a member of #TheRailwayFamily, I send my love and condolences to friends, family and work colleagues of those people who sadly died 20 years ago. You’ll be forever missed. God bless and Rest In Peace. To the survivors, may today bring you strength and courage in the knowledge that today we remember you too! 
Janet Waggott - Chief Executive Selby District Council  It is with great sadness we remember the Great Heck rail disaster and after 20 years our thoughts and prayers are still with those who were bereaved, injured and effected by this disaster .  
james freeman very sad day from me james freeman i can remember steve dunn (george) as i friend at doncaster may he rest in peace 
Joanne Hammond Remembering all that were affected in my thoughts xxx 
Office of Rail and Road From everyone at ORR, all our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives, and with the many that were injured on this day 20 years ago. 
Elly Fiorentini  My love and prayers to all those affected on that dreadful day. Remembering those who lost their lives, their families, the survivors and their families,  the emergency services, Tony, Sue and the team who were at Northern Straw that day, the villagers of Great Heck and all those who helped in their own way . Always remembered xx 
Suzie Gough  Remembering our Railway family who lost their lives at Great Heck 20 years ago today 💙❤
From a Newcastle driver 
Keith Mack It was a sad day for us, with a loss of colleagues and customers. It may have been 20 years ago but our memories live on. Thoughts are with all the families who endured such a loss.
Bob Howes My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their loved ones at Great Heck. 
Mary Dunn Thinking of the ten men who lost their lives, and all those injured.  Thank you to all who attended the scene to rescue, support and help.  Special thoughts of Steve, Daddy.  Andrew, James and Mary.  Never forgotten x
Claire Buckland Remembering John, Ray & Paul on this day and the bravery and dignity of their families. Often in my thoughts and prayers.
Margaret & Tony Williams We remember with great sadness the unfolding events of that fateful day 20 years ago and, as friends of Mary, Stephen, Andrew and James at St Wilfrid's Church in the village of Brayton, we extend our ongoing sympathy and love to Mary and all her family at this time of remembrance.
Angela Levitt-Harwood Thinking of and praying for all who continue to suffer as a result of this tragedy whether through loved ones lost or the physical or mental impact of the crash.
Chaplain for Railway Mission
James Pickering | Network SouthEast Railway Society We at the Network SouthEast Railway Society would like to deepest condolences to the families who lost their relations in this tragic incident. 
Stephanie Weddle I miss you Dad. I’m forever grateful I’m yours. I see you and hear you. Stay close to me. I hope next year, people leave your memory and your family alone and let your spirit soar. Please make our little Moonchild laugh until she comes back to us. 
Kev Thoughts today especially with the family of Railwayman Steve Dunn. A good friend growing up in Trowbridge and many fond memories of our time together.
Norma E. King MBE  My heartfelt condolences to all the families and friends of those that lost their lives, were injured or affected. I was Health and Safety Adviser to British Transport Police at the scene for three days and humbled by the professional and compassionate way all emergency services performed under such difficult circumstances.  
Lindsay Marshall A day that had a profound effect on so many people working at GNER that day.  We will always remember those lost and think of the families who lost their loved ones x
Kate Terry Arohanui from New Zealand to all of you who lost someone in this tragedy. We still miss our darling Christopher every day. Thinking of you all with love, His sister Kate and mother Helen
Peter Hartill Love from NUCRU
Liam Johnston Time does not dim pain of 
Janice Wanley Dear John, We missed you every single day. But we have so many happy memories of the wonderful 47 years we had with you.
Love you always 
Liam Johnston Time does not dim the pain of loss for those grieved by such a terrible tragedy. We hold all those who still feel the loss of loved ones in our hearts, our thoughts and prayers. 
Sam Lines-white Such tragic loss and trauma for those involved and those who responded.
We should always remember them.
Richard Ogden All will be remembered for a sad loss of lives and loved ones and the colleagues I remembered so well rest in peace xx
Vicki Beadle remembering the tragedy that unfolded 20 years ago today and all the families who were affected.  Thinking of you all today and always.  xx
Julie Hatfield Remembering this terrible event, the years have past, but the pain will still be there for all the families involved.  
Phil Woodward At the time I was a serving South Yorkshire Police Officer who led a Team that responded early that morning & subsequently spent several days in the recovery process. My thoughts are with all those who were lost, those injured, their families & colleagues who responded to that tragic incident. Never forgotten. 
Diane Hawthornthwaite ❤🌻 Sending Love to all those who lost Loved Ones, were injured or affected by this tragedy. You are all remembered. Grief is the price we pay for Love and oh, how Loved you are ❤🌻
Steve Baxter My thoughts go to the family friends & colleagues of those on what was the worst day of my working life. We will never forget that terrible day & those who lost their lives or were injured. Steve Baxter, Chef LNER Leeds.
Yvonne Daykin My thoughts go out to the families of those lost and affected by the incident at Great Heck. I worked at York station at the time and I know how much we were affected by it. It brings it home that we all head out to work and it doesn’t really occur to us that we won’t go home at the end of our shift.
Love and sympathy.
Yvonne xx
John Gelson Very moving commemoration to mark 20 years since the terrible events at Great Heck, especially as the train horns sounded. I will never forget meeting several of those involved at the 10th anniversary. My thoughts and prayers are with you as we all remember.
Tom Hanham Such deep memories. God bless you all.
Andy Marden The day will always be remembered for the wrong reasons and for losing Clive my first leader however the investigation process on the vehicles we hosted at Doncaster will always live on for the right reasons ... how we as the “Railway Family” work together 
John Weddle  Rest in peace John, sadly missed and always remembered . Gordon & Brenda Bremner
Ray Donnachie  It was a tragic loss of life totally preventable except for the actions of one will never be forgotten R.I.P.
Martin Wilks A terribly sad day. 
Martin Benson A very sad anniversary, my thoughts with all concerned
Vernon Baseley My thoughts are with all of those still suffering from the loss of their loved ones on that day.
Helen Bartlett What a privilege to have been involved in this memorial. In the words of the poem I read, may our 'zealous souls rejoice in peaceful, hopeful view.'
I thank everyone who took part and pass on my love and prayers to all of you, especially as we each continue our own life journey.
Helen - Railway Chaplain
Laura Welbourne (Shakespeare Family)  20 years ago you were taken away from us unexpectedly and so unfairly! We miss you terribly but seek comfort in knowing you are guiding us through life from the skies above. ♥️ Lots of love today and always dad ♥️ (Robert Shakespeare) xxxxx

Our thoughts are with the 9 other families who also lost their loved one that day. ♥️ xx
Adrine Woodham

I met John Weddle only once when he'd have been about 20 and his unusual seriousness, focus  and pride about working for then BR made a lasting impression. So even after many years when Great Heck happened I recognised him with particular sadness and very fond memories. RIP all those who were killed, especially John Weddle and my sympathies to all those bereaved, injured and traumatised so pointlessly.

Robin Lumb, Head of Engineering for GNER

I was the Head of Engineering for GNER at that time and my heart goes out to those who lost loved ones and colleagues in this dreadful tragedy.

I didn’t know personally our three colleagues Ray, Paul and John based in Newcastle but I felt their loss most emotionally when I attended their funerals in Newcastle along with their colleagues, travelling from funeral to funeral in the coaches that were provided for us. However, I did know Clive Vidgen as a close contact at Railpart in Doncaster. He had done his very best to keep getting our MkIV aircon units repaired when they were so problematic in the two very hot summers a few years earlier and I was saddened to attend his funeral in Doncaster.

I was due to witness some testing at the Government Mines Research Centre in Buxton that morning. The industry had experienced some similarly tragic incidents with HSTs in which fuel tanks had ruptured causing dreadful fires. I had decided to try and eliminate them by lining our tanks with rubber membranes in the same way that had been developed for Formula 1 racing cars so successfully and that day we were due to replicate an HST fuel tank smash on a rig to see if we could do the same. But I never got there. The call came just as I was about to leave my home in Matlock, my staff were already on their way to Great Heck and I would head immediately to York HQ by car to coordinate matters. Sadly, this had come only a few months after Hatfield which we were still recovering from with both fleet shortages and speed restrictions.

I had joined ICEC (later GNER) from outside the railways but I never lost the sense of feeling privileged to be in such a wonderfully supportive industry with wonderful colleagues. I found my office desk was covered in phone messages from all over the industry offering whatever help we needed and their condolences and sympathy.

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