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Archive Friday, 5 November, 1999, 12:58 GMT
Paddington: An Accident Waiting to Happen November 1 1999
Paddington: an accident waiting to happen
Monday 1 November 1999
Producer Rabinder Minhas
Reporter Vivian White

The warning signals were already there on Britain's privatised railway, as the 6.03 express from Cheltenham to London, and the 8.06 from Paddington to Bedwyn set off on their journeys on October 5th.

The immediate cause of the collision between these two trains was that the driver of the Thames train ran through a red light. Yet an official report into the Paddington disaster blames what it calls "a systems failure."

Vivian White investigates the state of the railway system, where for years danger signals were overlooked. He examines the safety systems available to protect drivers and passengers, both in trains and along the track, and uncovers further disturbing evidence that should have pointed towards this disaster happening.

Train drivers say that they are so concerned about signalling on the approach to Paddington that they will not drive at full speed on that track.

The British Rail engineer who designed the high speed track layout into Paddington tells the programme that he had never envisaged it operating without the safety back up of Automatic Train Protection, yet Britain is still largely dependent on a safety system that provides little protection against driver errors.

Panorama speaks to survivors, and those in charge of the system to retrace the journey to disaster and report on why it could and should have been foreseen: it was an accident waiting to happen.



Rail commuter Mark Rogers

Mark Rogers travels daily from London to his work at Amazon books in Slough. Usually he has time to settle down and read but October 5th wasn't a typical journey. "It was as if the whole world had been turned upside-down - there was screaming, immense noise of crashing metal and smashing glass"

Peter Rayner
Peter Rayner was operations manager for British Rail until 1994. He has expressed concerns about the safety of the privatised railways. He says the approach into Paddington is "an engineer's dream, but it became and is, a driver's nightmare"



Rail commuter Siobhan Hay
Siobhan had only started commuting on the Thames train from London 2 months before the crash. She has now bought a car to drive to work rather than travel on the train. "I don't really want to face that journey again. Maybe sometime but certainly not now"


Related links:
Department of the Envrionment, Transport and the Regions
Office of the Rail Regulator.
Institution of Railway Signal Engineers
Railtrack
Railway Gazette International
Thames Trains
The Health and Safety Executive

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Related News Stories:
London Train Crash: aftermath of a tragedy

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Rail crash victim Mark Rogers
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Peter Rayner. Operations Manager British Rail till 1994
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Rail crash victim Siobhan Hay
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