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Sunday, October 10, 1999 Published at 01:40 GMT 02:40 UK

Railtrack to be stripped of safety role

The move follows a damning report and the Paddington crash

Railtrack is to be stripped of its role in overseeing passenger safety on the railways, it has been confirmed.

Emergency legislation will be drafted for the forthcoming Parliamentary session, following a damning report into the company's safety record, and the Paddington train disaster.

London Train Crash

Details of the plans will be outlined in a statement to the House of Lords on Monday by the Transport Secretary Lord Macdonald.

It is expected that a Railways Bill already planned for the Queen's Speech will be beefed up, but the move could be made in separate legislation.

Political Correspondent Guto Harri: "The concern is the conflict of interest between its operations role and its safety role"
Other responsibilities currently entrusted to Railtrack could also be reviewed.

The responsibility for safety will be transferred to either a new independent safety authority, or assimilated by the Health and Safety Executive.

The idea had been under consideration by the government before Tuesday's rail disaster, which cost at least 40 lives.

[ image: Other responsibilities could also be reviewed]
Other responsibilities could also be reviewed
It followed the delivery of a critical Health and Safety report, commissioned by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott last year, which raised "concerns" over Railtrack's performance on safety.

The report is said to have identified five areas of safety where responsibility could be handed over.

These were the approval of safety rules and procedures, railway standards development, safety auditing; strategic research and the investigation of accidents.

Mr Prescott said he was "extremely concerned" about some of the findings.

A ministerial source said he had concluded there was a potential conflict between profit and safety.

Railtrack under more scrutiny

Mr Prescott has also appointed a team of inspectors to carry out an immediate investigation into Railtrack's safety record following the crash.

[ image: John Prescott and Lord Macdonald visited the crash site]
John Prescott and Lord Macdonald visited the crash site
The investigation will be carried out by independent experts appointed by the Health and Safety Commission.

Mr Prescott made the announcement following a two-hour meeting at 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister Tony Blair, Transport Minister Lord Macdonald and senior figures from the rail industry to discuss Tuesday's Paddington train disaster.

He said the meeting had covered safety measures on the network, the inquiry which has been set up under Lord Cullen into the disaster and a separate investigation into the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) safety system.

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