Kings Cross Disaster

Radio 4 this week past broadcast a fascinating Reunion show. 18 November 1987, 31 people perished by fire on the tube. Given the comments of the fireman present, the intense heat formed through flammable paint and fumes, was something they’d never realised could exist, let alone train for.

Then I was brought shuddering back to my points on apologies.

I’ve blogged on this before (with both its true meaning & more recently via Nestlé). In a Sales context, we often have to front up to failings as we are the shop-front.

Tony Ridley was head of the Underground at the time. And even now, 25 years on, he still could not bring himself to properly say sorry. His lack of humility was frightening.

I was so appalled at what I heard, I’ve re-listened to his own words to exactly document them here. They followed a comment by a grieving sister sent a £200 cheque (strangely equivalent to half the coffin cost) with an accompanying letter stating that this amount would be deducted from any future compensation.

The story beings around 18 minutes in on this link, with the unrepentant ex-Boss saying this from 19’30”.

I’ve nothing I can offer.

I have no recollection of how the compensation issues were handled.

The fact that I was very busy is not something for sympathy but I had many, many responsibilities, and I didn’t burden myself on top of that with something I believed was being handled elsewhere.


If someone was tweeting similar thoughts today in a business environment, would it read like this? I was busy. Nothing to do with me. Whatever. Get over it. #accidentshappen

The bereaved woman on the panel superbly kept her dignity in a way that I think would have found me wanting.

Her next point was that he got a £30k golden handshake, and all they got was £11k.

Tony wasn’t for turning.

A quarter-century on, and still he could not offer any morsel of regret. That things could have been handled better. That he hoped they’d be dealt with differently today. Incredible.

This kind of conflict mentality can all so easily become endemic in times of crisis. Who’s side should you be on? Why are you even thinking about ‘sides’?

There’s a stuff up, it needs sorting. “Fix the problem, not the blame”. Leave the post-incident reporting. Especially if it’s like the then record-breaking 91 day enquiry that Tony appeared to dismiss as “emotive”.

Then work with those affected as closely as you can. When you’ve made amends, work with them to make sure something like that never happens again.

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