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Saturday, December 12, 1998 Published at 17:13 GMT


Clapham: 10 years on

Wreaths were laid at the memorial

More than 200 people attended a service to mark the 10th anniversary of the Clapham Junction rail tragedy, the last time such a memorial will be held.

The outdoor service took place yards from the crash site.

The BBC's Lucy Atherton: "They have gathered here every year"
Those who attended included survivors of the crash, relatives and friends of the 35 people who died in the disaster, and representatives of the Queen, the prime minister and the emergency services.

Thirty-five people died and 113 were injured when a London-bound commuter train ploughed into the back of a stationary train near Clapham Junction, south west London.

[ image: Firemen carry victims from the train]
Firemen carry victims from the train
The service was led by Canon Ian Ainsworth-Smith, Chaplain to St George's Hospital in Tooting, South London, where many of the casualties were taken.

Pupils at the nearby Emanuel School sang hymns. At the time of the crash youngsters from the school had rushed down to the tracks to help rescue passengers from the wreckage.

Canon Ainsworth-Smith said: "We have gathered because it feels right, as it has felt right ever since the events 10 years ago, to be here and meet here and remember what happened."

"Ordinary people have a habit of behaving in an extraordinary way, and so it was on the day of the crash.

"I'm proud to be part of a human race where people care with such gentleness and skill as they did then."

Transport Correspondent Christopher Wain: Many experts think another disaster is highly unlikely
He marked the end to a decade of public grieving over the crash, saying: "Mourning and letting go never comes easily. But 10 years on, it may be right to think of another way in which to commemorate the day."

Earlier, a smaller remembrance service attended by about 50 mourners gathered at the scene at precisely the time of the tragedy a decade ago - 0813 on Monday 12 December, 1988.

Those present stood with their heads bowed for a minute's silence beside a memorial to those who died.

The train drivers' union Aslef is calling for the full implementation of safety recommendations made by the public inquiry into the accident.

[ image: Canon Ian Ainsworth-Smith led the service]
Canon Ian Ainsworth-Smith led the service
An official accident report by Sir Anthony Hidden QC made 93 recommendations, including the provision within five years across the network of automatic train protection (ATP) signalling safeguards.

General Secretary of train drivers union Aslef, Mick Rix, said: "Unfortunately, the key Hidden recommendation - that commercial considerations should never take precedence over safety - is flaunted daily on our fragmented privatised system.

"The ATP recommendation has been abandoned on grounds of cost.

"We find Railtrack, train operators, sub-contractors and other interested parties all passing the buck over liability or blame and holding up effective investigation into safety accidents."

The trains involved at Clapham were of the old, Mark 1 slam-door variety, which are known to be less able to withstand a crash than more modern carriages.

Members of the House of Commons Transport Committee this week expressed concerns about the safety of Mark 1 stock.

Yet as many as 2,300 of these carriages remain in use - mainly on commuter routes in the south-east.

However, Transport Minister John Reid said this week that of the 73 recommendations of the Hidden Report which required action, only three had not yet been completed.

These were:

  • ATP - ruled out by the last government on cost grounds

  • The provision of on-train data recorders - these are now being fitted to recently delivered and new traction units

  • The provision of cab radios - 98% of track infrastructure is now covered, but problems remain in tunnels and some deep cuttings

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