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Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 11:18 GMT
Further blow for East Coast line
Selby crash
The Selby collision will have a major impact on the network
The crash at Selby, in which at least 13 people have been killed, comes at a difficult time for Railtrack and East Coast Main Line operators GNER.

The tragedy has happened just months after the Hatfield collision in which four people died and major concerns were raised about rail safety.

It also follows a decision to defer the awarding of a new franchise for the line to GNER, which operates the route from London King's Cross to Aberdeen and Inverness.

Rail inspection
Major inspections took place after Hatfield
It is too early to gauge the full repercussions of the Selby crash. Although it appears to have been a unique and almost unpredictable accident, there is little doubt that further questions will be asked about safety levels on Britain's railways.

There will be more problems for already hard-pressed passengers.

If October's crash at Hatfield is anything to go by, there is the possibility of more widespread ramifications for the rail industry and in particular track management company Raitrack.

It announced a programme of track inspections after a report found that a stretch of line at Hatfield was found to be the "substantial" cause of that accident.

The crash led to a lengthy closure of the line and a major programme of track inspections across Britain's rail network, causing weeks of cancellation and delays.

The measures were introduced as confidence in a network, already dented following the 31 deaths in the 1999 Ladbroke Grove crash, took a further battering.

There was widespread criticism of Railtrack's handling of the inspections and repairs and this on top of continued concern over levels of safety.

Emergency timetables

The East Coast Main Line was severely affected and it took weeks for services to return to any degree of normality.

Emergency timetables were introduced as track engineers checked lines, leading to a fraught festive period for many travellers.

Many gave up on rail travel altogether, as indicated by a marked rise in air traffic between UK cities in December.

Airport bosses attributed the 14.3% directly to the aftermath of the Hatfield crash.

Delayed passengers
The problems drove some passengers away
Railtrack came in for stiff criticism from ministers and rail regulator Tom Winsor ordered the company to produce a recovery plan better tailored to the needs of train companies, with a deadline of 18 January.

Railtrack chief executive Steve Marshall promised that it would be able to produce the plan and passengers could expect full recovery of the rail network by mid April.

Amid the furore over safety issues, a further row developed after Railtrack announced a big increase in the cost of upgrading the track and signals on the line.

Rail company Virgin has been competing with the present incumbent for the franchise and a decision from the Strategic Rail Authority has been eagerly awaited.

However, the authority suspended the competition process in mid-February after Railtrack announced that costs could increase by between 20% and nearly 100%.

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17 Jul 00 | UK
25 Feb 00 | Talking Point
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