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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 18:27 GMT 19:27 UK
Red signal danger at record low
Train at red signals
The government says it is committed to improving rail safety
The number of trains passing red signals has fallen to the lowest level since records began in the mid-1980s.

The statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show there were 20 signals passed at danger (spads) in April - 10 fewer than in the same month last year.

But they also highlight one incident which almost ended in a serious collision.

BBC transport correspondent Simon Montague says the rolling annual total of trains passing red signals is now a third lower than it was just five years ago.

Former Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
Stephen Byers: Admitted he had "made mistakes"
The improvement is being put down to better driving techniques and staff training, although "there are still a dozen incidents a month defined as serious", he adds.

In one, a train which passed a red signal then derailed, blocking a main line.

The report shows a Penzance to Paddington express would probably have crashed into it, if the incident had happened only six seconds later.

In another, a train went past two red signals before stopping just 100 yards behind the train in front.

'Improvements'

Following the Ladbroke Grove rail crash in October 1999 which killed 31 people and involved a signal passed at danger, the government committed itself to improving rail safety.

But last month the Health and Safety Commission said safety measures recommended for Britain's railways following the incident were running behind schedule.

The latest figures are published just three days after the resignation of Stephen Byers as transport secretary.

His successor, Alistair Darling, said after his appointment it would be his task to ensure "money is translated into improvements in train running times and improvements in performance".



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30 May 02 | UK Politics
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