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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 16:13 GMT
GNER remembers Selby 'shockwave'
Gner train on East Coast Main Line
GNER has lost two trains in separate disasters

BBC News Online's Bill Wilson talks to train operating company GNER about how it coped with the Selby disaster.

Amid the outpouring of sympathy for the grieving families following the trial surrounding events at Selby, it is easy to forget one "extended family" also hurt in the tragic accident.

Three members of staff from train operating company Great North Eastern Railways (GNER) lost their lives when the 0445 GMT Newcastle to London express was derailed on 28 February and collided with a goods train carrying tons of coal.

The accident came just four months after the firm experienced the shock of the Hatfield derailment, when one of their London-to-Leeds trains was derailed due to faults in the track.

The thing about railways is that everybody sticks together

Christopher Garnett, GNER chief executive

The GNER employees who died at Selby were award-winning chef Paul Taylor, 42, from North Tyneside, train driver John Weddle, 47, of Newcastle, and customer operations manager Ray Robson, 43, of Whitley Bay.

The company operates East Coast Main Line services between London and Aberdeen via Peterborough, Yorkshire, the North East and Edinburgh.

David Mallender of GNER told BBC News Online: "It was a real shock to have another major accident so soon after Hatfield. It was quite devastating.

"It send a shockwave through the company, that it could happen again.

"It soon became clear that this was not an industry fault - it was a freak accident.

"The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) interim report came a week after the accident and made clear the circumstances surrounding what happened, while also paying tribute to the robustness of the GNER train."

Contact points

On the day of the accident the company moved into a drill that had been drawn up in the wake of the previous disaster, four months earlier.

Mr Mallender said: "The thing was, that after Hatfield we knew exactly how to react.

"We made sure we had GNER representatives at all hospitals that our workers were taken to.

GNER train on East Coast Main Line
GNER operates between London and Aberdeen

"We had staff at hotels next to stations where people would have boarded trains, as a contact point for family and relatives of those on board.

"We organised taxis and accommodation for people who needed help."

As the enormity of what happened hit home, a counselling service was set up which offered telephone counselling and a one-to-one service for those devastated employees who wanted it.

Mr Mallender said: "That service was used by staff on the train and other employees."

A number of events were organised to bring workers together and remember their former colleagues.

'Family members'

At the time GNER chief executive Christopher Garnett, said: "The thing about railways is that everybody sticks together."

The solidarity among the workers was shown when a series of minute's silences were held at GNER-operated stations along the East Coast Main Line, and staff flocked to attend.

Wreaths placed in the station included on in the shape of a GNER train.

During one service at Newcastle Central Station, Michael Turner, head of GNER retail operations said: "To me if feels very much like the loss of family members."

After Hatfield we knew exactly how to react to Selby

David Mallender, GNER

The agony was prolonged as it took almost a week to remove the mangled wreckage from the crash site at Great Heck.

A memorial service held at Hensall, North Yorkshire, four days after the tragedy, held in the nearest church to the crash site, saw prayers said for the victims and their families.

However the Rev Stuart Burgess, also added: "There should be prayers for the distress of GNER and Railtrack."

The three dead men had been dedicated railway workers.

Mr Robson, who had 24 years rail service, had saved the life of a man in 1998, bringing a train to a stop as the would-be-suicide leapt onto the side of a carriage at Peterborough station.

He was presented with a certificate of commendation and a gold GNER crest.

'Great lengths'

Contact was established with the families of the three dead men and continues to this day.

Mr Mallender said: "I think the company acquitted itself very well following the disaster.

"Health and other professionals have said we went to great lengths to help those affected by the crash."

The company lost a train, to add to the one lost at Hatfield, and subsequently runs less services than it did in summer 2000.

Mr Mallender said it would be impossible to quantify how much cash the company had lost because of Selby.

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