Socialist Worker

There were not enough turnstiles during Hillsborough disaster, says safety expert

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2640

Remembering the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster

Remembering the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster (Pic: Nick/Flickr)

There were not enough turnstiles for fans entering the terraces on the day of the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster, a court has heard.

Some 96 Liverpool fans died after a crush developed in pens 3 and 4 at the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

Chartered structural engineer John Cutlack told a court on Monday about changes included in the 1986 Green Guide to safety at grounds. One change defined the role of club management in ensuring fans’ safety.

Cutlack said the aim was to make sure a club understood that “the ultimate responsibility for safety sat with the holder of the safety certificate”.

Other changes included the introduction of a suggested “maximum flow rate” through turnstiles of 750 people per hour.

Cutlack said the target was “interpreted to mean that it was expected that the turnstiles would need to be of sufficient numbers that everybody could get into the ground in an hour”.

But he said for all fans to get into the Leppings Lane terraces, the turnstiles would have needed to admit 1,443 people per hour.

The Green Guide was voluntary. But Cutlack said councils in particular often “viewed it as the Bible”.

The court heard that the Leppings Lane turnstiles needed to cater for around 6,000 more people on the day of the disaster than on a typical league match day. Cutlack also estimated that the figure of 1,443 was about 30 percent higher than at the semi-final in 1988, when arrangements were different.


Cutlack said at a flow rate of 750 per hour per turnstile, it would have taken around one and a half hours to get everyone through the turnstiles in 1988.

In 1989 he estimated that this would take nearly two hours.

“Inevitably if people arrived within the last hour before the game there would have been more people outside the turnstiles still trying to get in than would have been the case in 1988,” he said.

The court heard that 54 people per 10 square metres was considered the maximum density for terraces in good condition. A figure of 27 people per 10 square metres was given when the terrace deviated from the guidelines.

Cutlack believed the safe capacity of the West Terrace was 5,689 in 1990. The safety certificate stated this as 7,200. By 1989 Cutlack believed the safe capacity was 5,426. The safety certificate still said 7,200.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) review after the disaster found that barrier 124a, which collapsed in the crush, was around 60 years old. The HSE concluded that it had suffered some corrosion, as had two other barriers in pens 3 and 4.

The HSE calculated that there were 1,576 fans in pen 3 on the day leading to a “packing density” of 8.4 people per square metre. It thought the figure in pen 4 was similar.

David Duckenfield, police match commander on the day of the disaster, faces 95 charges of manslaughter by gross negligence. He cannot be charged over the death of the 96th, Tony Bland, as he died four years after the disaster.

Graham Mackrell, then Sheffield Wednesday club safety officer, faces two charges relating to safety breaches. Both deny the charges.

The trial continues.

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