Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK


Drivers 'victims of blame game'

Trains stand idle at Paddington station following the crash

Train drivers and their trade union representatives are trying to deflect accusations aimed at one of the drivers in the Paddington crash.

Both men are thought to have died, but there are allegations that the Thames Trains driver went through Signal 109 while it was on red.

On Wednesday it was revealed that the driver, who has not been named, had only been driving for two months. Before that he had undergone 11 months of training.

London Train Crash
Only last week the driver of a train involved in the 1997 Southall rail crash, in which seven people died, apologised for failing to spot a red and two yellow signals moments before the accident.

With the blame game increasingly focusing on the drivers, some have reacted.

Nicky Campbell reads out the driver's e-mail and Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody supports its sentiments
One anonymous driver e-mailed BBC Radio 5 Live's Nicky Campbell and complained of being forced to work long hours and over-extended stretches of days.

He said the practice induced a dangerous level of fatigue.

Drivers say mistakes are inevitable because of the hours they are being forced to work.

The driver wrote: "People keep blaming the drivers, but we are only human. People get tired and can't do their jobs."

He said the privatised rail companies had agreed a shorter basic working week for drivers.

"But with all the companies that I have worked for, drivers are pressurised to work their days off. Many drivers are working 13 days out of 14," he told Mr Campbell.

'Monotonous job'

Night shifts often last 11 hours and drivers are often on their own, with no company or anything to keep them awake or alert.

"Every driver would admit that they do lose concentration through tiredness.

"Some shifts are up to 11 hours long. The job is so monotonous."

But the driver at fault in the Paddington crash would appear to have only just come on duty - his train was setting off at 8.11am.

Former signalman Kevin, from Edinburgh, tells Nicky Campbell: "I've seen signals change just by people touching the wires"
Mick Rix, general secretary of he train drivers' union, Aslef, said: "We must get away from the blame culture.

"The purpose of everyone in the industry must now be to establish as quickly as possible what went wrong and why it went wrong. These lessons are vital to prevent similar tragedies in the future."

'Signal prone to be missed'

"The most important thing is a speedy official inquiry which reaches conclusions over safeguards."

He said: "Signal 109 was prone to be overrun because of the site of it."

[ image: Mick Rix:
Mick Rix: "Drivers are working dangerously long hours"
An internal inquiry following a collision at Royal Oak, near Paddington, in 1995 called for the signal site to be examined.

Aslef says the signal is not visible at some points to train drivers coming out of Paddington station.

Flashing yellow lights which warned drivers of the signal had also been removed, he said.

Mr Rix said the junction had been overrun eight times since 1993, six times by Thames Trains.

Aslef is also seeking assurances there will be no more reductions in driver training programmes.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

06 Oct 99 | UK
Train crash: 70 missing

06 Oct 99 | Health
15 crash victims fight for life

06 Oct 99 | Health
Crash victims offered counselling

05 Oct 99 | UK
Chronology of rail accidents

05 Oct 99 | UK
In pictures: Paddington train crash

05 Oct 99 | UK Politics
Blair promises 'fullest' crash inquiry

05 Oct 99 | UK
Is rail travel becoming less safe?

05 Oct 99 | UK
Crash inquiry 'must start in days'

05 Oct 99 | London train crash
Analysis: Is profit to blame?

05 Oct 99 | UK
Crash raises familiar questions

05 Oct 99 | The Company File
Rail shares drop after disaster

07 Oct 99 | UK
I'm sorry, says Southall crash driver

Internet Links

Great Western Trains

Health and Safety Executive

British Transport Police

Thames Trains

Metropolitan Police

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online