The pair were killed instantly by the 7.38am Uckfield to London Bridge service as it sped through the station near Purley, Surrey. Witnesses reported seeing the mother and child walk on to the tracks at the suburban station before being hit.
Ambulance teams and Metropolitan police officers attended, but the woman and child – believed to be a toddler – were declared dead at the scene. Before the impact a commuter was heard screaming: “There’s a body on the track.”
British Transport Police (BTP), who have launched an investigation, were called to the incident at around 8.20am. Police refused to comment on reports that the woman laid down in the path of the oncoming train, but they do not believe anyone else was involved.
Commuter Paul Camlett said he had arrived at the station just before 8.30am He said: “The station master rounded everyone up and ordered them off the platform. Everyone was oblivious to what had happened. A woman screamed ‘there’s a body on the track’.
“I’m in complete shock. People were crying. They were in complete shock. The woman who screamed just could not speak.”
Commuters on the train affected were eventually allowed to leave their compartments at 10am, more than 90 minutes after the incident.
A BTP spokeswoman said: “BTP officers were called to Riddlesdown rail station in Purley on Friday 22 March after a report that a woman and a child had been struck by a train. The incident was reported to BTP at 8.29am and was also attended by Metropolitan police officers.
“Medics from the London Ambulance Service also attended, but a woman and a child were declared dead at the scene. Inquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances, and a file will be prepared for the coroner.”
The station was temporarily closed while the emergency services dealt with the incident and the police investigation got under way.
BTP Detective Chief Inspector Simon Taylor said: “Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of the woman and child involved in this tragic incident.
“Officers are continuing to work to establish the full circumstances surrounding this incident, although early indications show that no one else was believed to have been involved.”