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Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Paddington crash: Can we make sure it never happens again?

Commuters at London's Paddington station observed a one minute silence on Thursday in memory of those who died in last year's train crash.

Thirty-one people died and 414 were injured when a Thames train leaving Paddintgon collided head-on with a Great Western express service from Cheltenham. The Thames train driver had passed through a red signal.

Campaigners say no safety improvements have been made to Britain's rail network since the crash. The first part of a public inquiry ended last week with arguments over signals, driver training, escape procedures and warning systems dominating the evidence.

One year on, what safety lessons been learned from the tragedy? Could a similar crash happen again? Do you feel safe travelling by train?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

I feel safe when using the railway, because I live in France. The super TGV trains which leave from my nearest station (Toulouse) all have the ATP system, are always on time, reasonably priced and very quick. When I visit the country where I used to live (England), the trains are slow, normally late, frequently cancelled, dirty and very expensive.
Robin Clark, France

We were fortunate there weren't even more people killed. With the number of people crammed into carriages packed full, we have less dignity and comfort than animals packed into lorries
Andy Helsby, UK


In the final analysis, no, it isn't possible to make sure it never happens again.

Chris Hann, USA (Brit)
In the final analysis, no, it isn't possible to make sure it never happens again. The search for foolproof systems just proves that people don't appreciate nature's ability to make a better fool. It just isn't possible to predict all possible eventualities, we've been trying for many years and we'll continue but there will still be accidents and disasters. To an extent as systems become safer their operators become more careless.
Chris Hann, USA (Brit)

What appalling hypocrisy that there should be all this fuss about a solitary accident in one of the world's safest environments! When are we going to see the same media hysteria about the millions killed, injured and diseased every year as a result of global governments' connivance with the tobacco, oil and vehicle cartels?
David Baynes, Canada

Yes, Paddington could happen again. The solution is not necessarily Automatic Train Protection (after all, many more people die every year as a result of cars running red lights), but for the rail infrastructure to be managed for the public good not for private profit. Railtrack should be returned to public ownership, or the rail regulator should be given real teeth to force them to behave responsibly. If the problem with the Ladbroke Grove signal had been fixed when it was first reported, nearly 450 lives would not have been damaged or ended.
Guy Chapman, UK


Common sense suggests that the first priority for improvement to transport safety should be the roads

Steve Dooley, England
Any mass transport system which moves fragile people at high speeds can never be 100% safe. Thirty one people died tragically in the Paddington rail crash. In the year since that event, over 3000 will have died on our roads. No memorial services or public enquiries for them. Common sense suggests that the first priority for improvement to transport safety should be the roads.
Steve Dooley, England

Britain has the most disgraceful and disgusting rail system in Europe. They do not give a damn about safety and never have. I try and avoid using them but sometimes this is not possible.
David, UK

If that accident happened in America the rail companies would be bleeding right now from all the lawsuits from the victims' families, and rightfully so. I would add jail time for the owners.
T.J. Cassidy, USA


Why is it that we always get so excited about a relatively few rail deaths yet seem oblivious to the carnage on our roads?

Steve Griffiths, England
All accidental deaths are a disaster. But why is it that we always get so excited about a relatively few rail deaths yet seem oblivious to the carnage on our roads? Here in Brentwood there has been an outcry against the imposition of a 30 mph speed limit on a stretch of road that has to be crossed by pedestrians wanting access to bus stops. An increase to 40mph would save all of 30 seconds. There definitely seems to be a philosophy that losing a few pedestrians/ motorists at the rate of 15 to 20 a day is OK. But the same number in a rail crash requires a multi-million pound enquiry and the installation of 'foolproof' systems at any price.
Steve Griffiths, England

I have travelled thousands of miles over Europe by train this year and I think that the privatised British system is one of the best. Both freight and passengers have increased enormously in the last 5 years. If you really want to look at a dangerous, rundown, under-invested system look no further than the nationalised London Underground.
Chris, England

Why was the documentary on so late in the evening? This is a case that should be highlighted until changes are made to ensure it never happens again.
Katie, England

I avoid London in the rush hour if at all possible. The trains are so overcrowded, it's not funny. Forget finding a seat, if you can find a space to stand without someone's elbow in your face you're doing pretty well - if a train crashes like that the casualties would still be horrific. Alas, it appears nothing has changed since the Paddington tragedy.
Karl Peters, UK

If society really is serious about preventing people from being hurt then it would spend more money enforcing the speed limits on the roads, which would prevent far more horrible deaths and injuries. People suffer the same injuries and trauma in road crashes as they did at Ladbroke Grove, but society doesn't seem to care about road crash victims as much as train crash victims.
David Hansen, Scotland

The government has predictably, used the old device of a public enquiry to deflect public anger from them, and to kick the whole business into touch. What was really needed was a criminal prosecution. Enquiries and their resultant wish list of proposals to avoid the same thing in future have no effect whatever on companies whose first priority is to protect their profits. Long prison sentences for railway company directors, on the other hand, would concentrate the minds of their successors to a much greater degree, and change the safety culture out of all recognition.
Chris Norman, UK


The only long term solution is to take them back into public ownership and control without compensation

Rob Williams, UK
Britain has, without a doubt, the worst railway system in Europe. It was broken up into 125 different companies, and is more concerned about share prices than providing a good service. The Train Operating Companies are quite incapable of looking beyond the next tax year and will never invest in better safety systems or rolling stock unless they are dragged kicking and screaming.
Even their profits come at the expense of the taxpayer, via government subsidies. Having failed on all counts - safety, punctuality, reliability, prices - but making enormous profits into the bargain, the only long term solution is to take them back into public ownership and control without compensation.
Rob Williams, UK

How about a talking point debate on introducing breathalyser tests for all drivers, pilots etc (persons who are responsible for so many lives)before they take control of any public transport. THAT IS REALLY IN THE INTERESTS OF THE PUBLIC. Breathalysers should also me connected to the ignition of all motorcars in the future i.e. over a certain level the engine will not start!
Margaret Carre, UK in Belgium

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