Bettison & The Sowerby Bridge Disaster Cover Up !
Miscarriages of justice really ” do my head in “, and I can well understand the anguish of the Hillsborough victim relatives and friends, but after BBC Panorama colluded with bogus Road Safety Charity BRAKE in a programme on the Sowerby Bridge Disaster for me it got personal as my friends were demonised.
The Sowerby Bridge Disaster happened in the 1990s when a Fewston
Eight Wheeler Foden ( driven by a retired Ex-Police HGV driver ) ran out
of control down the steep hill into the town centre killing Six people.
By then Norman Bettison was Assistant Chief Constable of West
Yorkshire Police, and it was almost certainly he who rigged the outcome
of the Accident Investigation to protect the Police’s reputation on Road
Our local Waddington Fell quarry at the summit of was then owned and run by the three Brown brothers and covered most of its own haulage with a fleet of Fodens they operated, the gradient down into the village of Waddington itself was notorious for runaways and one of there eight wheeler's had once got away and demolished a house in the village center.
their whole fleet was fitted with Telma electromagnetic retarders which
were built into the prop shaft and the company was featured in the full
page Telma adverts in the Commercial Motor at one time. Their crushed
rock sand was popular in the building trade and they supplied builders
merchants throughout Lancashire. It was good loading because the
brother who drove the loading shovel would deliberately leave you
slightly light then follow you the short distance down to the
weighbridge and top you up to full weight using a light controlled in
above the weighbridge.
I had worked out a plan for coming down the hill at a reasonable speed and I never had any problems doing four loads a day returning with the brakes almost stone cold before setting out down the hill loaded again. However one day working out of there after I had graduated to a 220 RR 30 ton Six Speed David Brown Gearbox Scammell, she got away on me despite my previous safe experience.
The brakes had been adjusted and their condition checked the previous
weekend and I had been running out of the Fell for a few days into the
week with no apparent problems when that particular day after doing a
couple of loads in the morning the Brown brother in charge gave me a
quick load down to Eaves Hall caravan park where they were using the
local stone to fill in the foundations of a new building they were
I thought nothing about it and was back leaving the
quarry loaded again within half an hour and proceeded to normal plan,
third gear dead steady down the steepest bit from the summit using a
light as possible brake application to stop the engine over revving then
after the Moorcock pub where the road almost levels out selecting 4th
for 30 Mph again with light brake application to check the engine.
Apparently everything OK and it was not until some distance further
after some slight bends where I usually increased the strength of the
brake application to cope with the increasing gradient that I realised
that my foot was already flat on the floor and I was in serious
trouble. Nothing much I could do but I try to slow her by running onto
the grass verge to sink and ground the axle, and my speed
had by then fallen to just under 20 Mph and I took the big risk of
momentarily releasing the foot brake to rev the engine enough ( no
synchro-mesh ) and trying to change down into third gear, which fortunately I managed successfully.
It was really lucky that there was noting coming the other way as I ploughed through the picturesque village of Waddington with no hope of being able to stop, and finally coming to a halt on the then chipping dump just outside, climbed out of the cab and stood there shaking like a leaf !
In the Sowerby Bridge Case, apparently the aforementioned Ex-Police driver had only ever driven their Horse Box, with a syncro-mesh gearbox and never anywhere near full plated gross weight. The Foden was a different animal altogether, with a Fuller Nine Speed Range Change constant-mesh box where you must match the revs to change gear-box. That means ” double de-clutching ” where you have the blip the throttle in neutral to change down. An experienced skilled man can cleanly change both up and down without ever touching the clutch once moving, and probably knows where the 10th gear fits into the shift sequence as well.
BBC Panorama showed the wreck of the Foden and the condition of the brake linings after the fact, both the ” second-steer ” and leading drive axle linings were burnt out. It was on these two axles on which the spring parking brake actuators operated, which is the key to the cause of the accident.
Whilst watching the programme it was almost immediately apparent to
me that the driver had ” Pumped the Brakes ” like with a car with faulty
hydraulic brakes. He thus lost all his air pressure, leaving him with
only the spring parking brakes with an efficiency of 16% or capable of
holding the vehicle on a gradient of One in 6.25. As the brakes were
probably significantly ” faded ” after coming down from the summit of
the A629 over Denholm from Keighley, their efficiency would have been
less than that. Fatal if said driver ( probably ) missed a gear as you can’t ram it
into a lower gear like you can with a synchro box.
I know from experience of the route over Denholm at that time that even with a five axle 38 ton semi-trailer ( with wider drums than said Foden ) your brakes were significantly faded by North Bridge Roundabout at Halifax if stopped at all the traffic lights , not enough time to cool much before going down into Sowerby Bridge.
My suspicions were confirmed after I got into an argument over it with the young executive transport CEO of a Scottish based Dairy corporate on LinkedIn, who claimed to have studied the case during his time at University. He said that pedestrians at the top of the hill had heard the driver test-ING his brakes, but you can only hear air brakes when they are released. He claimed that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and I got electronically excommunicated from LinkedIn shortly afterwards.
Fewston Transport was convicted for poor maintenance but the ( a good friend of mine ) Fewston Charge-Hand Fitter was charged with Manslaughter. By then I had a computer with printer so I got in touch with Will Murray at Huddersfield University Department of Logistics and sent him a detailed analysis of the case. The charges against my friend were subsequently dropped, as they claimed he was unfit for trial due to having contracted MS or something similar, ( Probably due to the stress he was under ) despite the protestations of BRAKE !
Perhaps the main contributory factor to the Sowerby Bridge Disaster was the fact that the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority forced Fewston to move its garage from Swinden Quarry ( just past Cracoe on the road up to Grassington ) to Skipton Rock Quarry. The Rock garage is up a narrow track full of speed humps so you lose at least 15 minutes just to call in before any mechanical inspection. I believe that aforementioned disaster driver was booked to do three trips to Huddersfield that day, a hard task for even a ” Top link ” driver and stick to drivers hours legislation.
Fewston was a ” Shell Company ” set up by the banks to take over
Tilcon’s tipper fleet on the advent of new EU sheeting regulations. The
Tilcon tripper drivers were quite well paid, and took a huge cut in
wages, plus being forced to be cold and pissed wet through all day in
bad weather. Take my own personal case, I did five loads a day from
Swinden ex-works to RMC Burnley for which we were paid on a percentage
of the takings.
After the sheeting regulations were introduced it meant
working an extra hour a day for nothing plus getting ” shit up to the
eyeballs ” plus risking serious injury. No safety exceptions for high winds when the sheet ties can lash you in the eyes, strong gusts can pick you up and fly you like as if attached to a kite if you don't let go, no exceptions for snow either.
Tilcon ( who always bought
British Foden ) was subsequently taken over by another big corporate aggregate company, Fewston
bought Scania’s, no doubt the Fat cat Stock Market Parasites were
pleased with the deal, perhaps the very same Yuppies who got their corrupt National Park Executive mates to force Fewston to move the garage ?
Just in case after reading this anyone is scared of HGV's running away down hills brake lining material technology has moved on since then and Brake Fade is no longer the major problem it once was !