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Saturday, September 19, 1998 Published at 03:41 GMT 04:41 UK


Southall relatives urge action

Seven passengers died and 147 were injured in the 1997 crash

Lawyers acting for victims of the Southall rail crash are calling on the Crown Prosecution Service to come to a decision on whether to bring criminal proceedings against the train company involved.

Transport correspondent Simon Montague: "Hearings may not start until the year 2000"
On the first anniversary of the crash, they have warned that the delay could mean that the public inquiry into its causes will not start for more than two years after the accident.

Seven passengers died and 147 were injured when an express train travelling from Swansea to Paddington collided with an empty freight train at Southall, in west London.

The Health and Safety Commission inquiry into the accident was formally opened in February, but public hearings are unlikely to be held until criminal proceedings arising from the crash are completed.

'Families' frustration'

Victims' lawyer Karen Darbyshire: Many passengers can't get back on trains
Mark Harvey, one of the Law Society steering committee co-ordinating representation of victims, voiced frustration that proceedings had not got further.

"The Director of Public Prosecutions must rapidly come to a decision on whether to prosecute any of the rail companies involved in the accident and then get on with any prosecutions as soon as possible so that the inquiry can make progress," said Mr Harvey.

"It is extremely frustrating for the families to still be no nearer to knowing why they were injured and why members of their family died in this crash. This stalemate is exasperating," said Mr Harvey, of Swansea-based solicitors Smith Llewelyn.

Driver charged

BBC Transport Correspondent Simon Montague: Delay causing anguish
The CPS is expected to advise police on whether Railtrack and train operating company Great Western should face charges.

A CPS spokeswoman said a British Transport Police file on the crash was submitted in late July, and was still being reviewed by lawyers.

She could not say when the CPS would complete its review of the file.

The driver of the express, Larry Harrison, 50, has already been charged with manslaughter and is due to appear at Ealing magistrates' court, west London, on 9 October for committal proceedings.

Earlier this week Professor John Uff QC, who heads the inquiry, wrote to victims to explain why public hearings had not begun.

Professor Uff said he was aware of disquiet about the delay, but insisted progress had been made behind the scenes.

But he stressed: "At the formal opening session I made it clear that it was important that no action was taken which might prejudice any criminal prosecution. That remains the position."

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