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Saturday, October 9, 1999 Published at 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK


UK: Scotland

Former driver tells of train safety fears

The Paddington train crash has heightened fears about rail safety

A former train driver has revealed the fear of passing through a red light which haunts train drivers across the UK.


BBC Scotland's Peter Strachan reports on the danger signals
Kevin Graham, who was a driver between 1986 and 1991, said he and most of his former colleagues had come close to passing red signals.

The 31-year-old's admission comes as ScotRail, his former employer, revealed two trains came to rest just 53 yards apart after a driver jumped a red signal.

It has also been announced that two signals in Scotland have been identified by the Health and Safety Executive as being high risk because of the number of trains to have gone through at red.


[ image: Sinal 109: a train passed it at red before the Paddington crash]
Sinal 109: a train passed it at red before the Paddington crash
But Mr Graham, who used to work out of Glasgow's Central Station, claims the danger of human error has been ignored by politicians.

"It is extremely easy to pass a red signal - far too easy in fact," he said from his home in Fort William, in the Scottish Highlands.

"It must be made clear to the British public that every driver has come close to passing a red signal at one time or another. I have never met a driver who hasn't."

Mr Graham, who has recently graduated from Glasgow University with an English degree, said the refusal of politicians to recognise the threat posed by driver error and introduce safety systems was "despicable".

'Despicable politicians'

"No-one should have died at Ladbroke Grove or Southall. The only reason people were killed is because the Government of the day decided that Automatic Train Protection was too expensive," he said.

"It was decided that a few deaths each year were an acceptable alternative to harming the railway's financial outlook in the run-up to privatisation.

"That is the ultimate truth of the Paddington disaster and none of the despicable politicians or businessmen involved in that decision should be allowed to pretend otherwise."


[ image: Automatic Train Protection could prevent accidents]
Automatic Train Protection could prevent accidents
On Friday evening it was revealed two trains carrying as many as 100 passengers came to a halt just 53 yards from each other after a driver jumped a red light.

ScotRail said the incident, which happened on the outskirts of Helensburgh, north west of Glasgow, was the subject of an inquiry by ScotRail and Railtrack.

But spokesmen for both companies stressed no passengers were in danger at any time during the incident which happened in August this year.

"One of the drivers went through a red light and ended up on the wrong track after jumping a set of points," said a ScotRail spokesman.

"The driver immediately stopped, as did the driver of the other train when he saw the train on the line in front.

"We take this very seriously, but the trains were not travelling at high speed and there was no danger to the passengers."

A spokesman for Railtrack said that, during the inquiry, the driver admitted running through a red light and, after a reassessment training course, was now back at work.

Passed at danger

Both drivers tested negative for drugs and alcohol.

In the wake of the Paddington rail crash a number of signals throughout Britain have been identified as high risk - and two them are in Scotland.

The sites were named in a HSE report where red lights have been passed at danger on several occasions. Railtrack has been ordered to carry out improvements.

They are at Jamestown in Fife between the Forth Bridge and Inverkeithing and at Westerton in Glasgow between Anniesland and Bearsden.

In Fife there have been eight occasions where trains have gone through signals, and in Glasgow there have been 10.

But Railtrack Scotland spokesman Nigel Wunsch says the company has already taken steps to improve safety on the lines.



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