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Saturday, November 15, 1997 Published at 08:57 GMT



UK

Safety fears linger, decade after Kings Cross fire

The fire was one of the worst disasters in British transport history

Ten years after one of the worst disasters in British transport history, fresh fears have arisen about the safety of the London Underground.

Thirty-one people died in the Kings Cross fire which broke out as commuters headed home on November 18, 1987.


[ image: Wooden escalators allowed a small fire to spread]
Wooden escalators allowed a small fire to spread
At around 7.30pm a passenger on an escalator lit a cigarette and dropped the match. The results were disastrous. The fire fed on grease on the moving stairway and in 10 minutes had engulfed the wooden treads on the steps.

Fifteen minutes later the flames had reached the Kings Cross ticket hall, then erupted in a fireball, filling the crowded station with poisonous black smoke. Many of those who died were killed instantly.

Reports into the fire criticised a number of lax safety procedures. But a decade on, many of those fears still exist.


[ image: Some treads are still made of wood]
Some treads are still made of wood
Two key features of the original disaster remain. An escape passage between two platforms at Kings Cross has not been built and 30 escalators still have wooden steps.

But the Managing Director of London Underground, Dennis Tunnicliffe, says there is no need for alarm.

"We are still going to meet the original deadline for removing all that wood. In the meantime we are confident the risk is extremely low."


[ image: MD Dennis Tunnicliffe says the underground system is safe]
MD Dennis Tunnicliffe says the underground system is safe
The London Fire Brigade adds that many safety procedures have been implemented.

Spokesman Keith Bishop said: "So much so that it is now one of the safest transport systems in the world. All escalators are now constructed of non-combustible materials.

"All rooms have a smoke detection system and staff have to be trained in evacuation procedures."

Fire brigade sources say that although smoking is banned they are finding more cigarette butts on the floors of stations and are keen to point out that the risks of smoking are too great to be ignored.








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