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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Service marks Hatfield anniversary
The Rev. Miles Mitson makes the address at the Hatfield rail crash memorial service
Tributes were paid to those who died at Hatfield
Relatives of people killed in the Hatfield rail crash joined survivors at a memorial service in St Albans to mark the first anniversary of the tragic derailment.

Four people died and dozens were injured when a high-speed train was derailed because of a faulty piece of track at a bend in Hertfordshire.

In a letter read out at the service, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the anniversary was an opportunity to "remember and to pay tribute to those who died and to the bravery shown by those who survived".

I know that nothing can... take away the pain, grief, loss and shock that have touched many lives

Tony Blair
The deaths on the GNER London to Leeds express could still be the subject of prosecutions.

Wednesday's service at St Albans Cathedral was led by the chaplain to the British Transport Police, Reverend Miles Mitson.

He read out Mr Blair's letter, which said: "My thoughts and sympathy are very much with the families and friends of those who died, and with the passengers and GNER staff who were involved or caught up in the accident.

"I know that nothing can undo what has happened, or take away the pain, grief, loss and shock that have touched many lives.


"No government can guarantee the absolute safety of any form of travel. But the steps we are taking and have pledged to take will go a long way to ensure railway travel is safer in the future."

Bereaved families and survivors from the rail crashes at Southall (1997), Paddington (1999) and Selby (February 2001) were also attending the service.

Before the service some relatives of the Hatfield dead gathered on the road overlooking the crash site at 1223BST - the time of the derailment - for a period of reflection.

Though less severe than the Paddington crash in terms of fatalities, the Hatfield disaster devastated the rail network.

All our employees remain committed to the delivery of a safer, better railway

Railtrack's chairman, John Robinson

Following the discovery of cracks in the rail at Hatfield, Railtrack embarked on a huge programme of rail checks and replacement which led to hundreds of speed limits being imposed on lines nationwide.

The post-Hatfield work, coupled with some of the worst winter floods for decades, led to an almost complete breakdown of the existing rail timetable.

Railtrack's chairman, John Robinson, said on Wednesday that 550 miles of rail had been replaced and about 1,200 sets of switches and crossings renewed to improve safety.

Financial difficulties

"The industry as a whole has been working hard to improve the safe management of the railway and safety practices have advanced significantly," he said.

The chaos following Hatfield and the cost of repairs contributed to Railtrack's financial difficulties leading eventually to its recent insolvency.

But Mr Robinson added: "All our employees remain committed to the delivery of a safer, better railway."

And he reaffirmed Railtrack's commitment to learning the lessons from the disaster.

Gerald Corbett
Gerald Corbett received a large pay-off despite resigning
"We are deeply sorry that the tragedy at Hatfield occurred - the past year has been very hard for all those involved," Mr Robinson said.

"It is vitally important that the lessons learned from Hatfield continue to be built on and developed to ensure that safety on the rail network is continually enhanced."

Interim Hatfield crash reports from the Health and Safety Executive and another from the rail industry's own Railway Safety group have been critical of Railtrack.

The reports took issue with Railtrack's failure to replace the track at Hatfield during maintenance work.

The BBC's Simon Montague
"One year on rail replacement work still isn't finished"
See also:

16 Oct 01 | Business
The far-reaching effects of Hatfield
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