King's Cross Fire 1987

Date start:
18 Nov 1987
King's Cross Fire 1987

The King's Cross fire on 18 November 1987, in which 31 people died, was the most serious accident in London Underground's history. The detailed public enquiry that followed, chaired by Desmond Fennel, led to a complete revision of safety and operational procedures on the system.

King's Cross is one of London's busiest interchanges, and is used by thousands of people daily. It is served by the deep-level Piccadilly, Northern and Victoria lines. The Circle and Metropolitan lines also pass through the station, although these run in tunnels above the others. Exits from these lines are by a short staircase, while the deep-level lines exit through escalators in another part of the station. The Underground station is also connected to the mainline station.

In 1987, most of the escalators on the Underground system were made of wood and so presented a fire risk. Between 1980 and 87, 13 serious fires were reported in stations. One at Oxford Circus resulted in the introduction of an experimental ban on smoking in February 1985. However, the ban may have contributed to the King's Cross fire, since it led to passengers lighting cigarettes as they left the station on the escalator. Investigators later found evidence of several small fires that had burnt out beneath the escalators at King's Cross. It was concluded that a lighted match that fell onto the machinery beneath the escalator had ignited the fire.

Alternate Names

  • Kings Cross Fire
  • Kings Cross Disaster

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