The train driver jailed after the Purley rail disaster nine years ago has the backing of rail union Aslef in the fight to clear his name.

Robert Morgan pleaded guilty to manslaughter after the crash which killed five people on March 4, 1989 and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. That was later reduced to four months in the court of appeal.

But now, backed by Aslef, he is to seek a judicial review of his conviction and compensation.

A legal precedent was set this month by Peter Afford, the driver charged with manslaughter after the Watford Junction train crash in 1996, in which one person was killed.

Lawyers acting for Mr Afford at Luton crown court said the dilapidated signalling next to the track had contributed to the accident and he was acquitted.

Aslef general secretary Lew Adams said questions about the reliability of signalling near Purley at the time of the crash threw doubt on Mr Morgan's conviction. He said the fact that British Rail overhauled the signalling shortly after the disaster supports the notion that it may have been unsafe.

Mr Adams added: "There is a culture of `blame the driver' when a crash happens. He was left to take the blame when the accident may have been caused by infrastructure shortcomings."

A Railway Inspectorate report in 1990 found that Mr Morgan had driven his Littlehampton-Victoria express through two caution signals and said the disaster could have been averted if an automatic braking system had been installed. His train smashed into a Horsham-Victoria train at around 60mph.

Five people died and 88 people were injured when six carriages crashed down the embankment to the north of Purley station, ending up in the back gardens of homes in Glenn Avenue.

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