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Sunday, October 10, 1999 Published at 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK


Crash toll less than feared

Hundreds attended the Ladbroke Grove memorial service

Police say that far fewer people died in the Paddington rail disaster than they had previously feared.

The final death toll is now estimated at between 30 and 40 after only one body was found in the most severely burnt carriage.

London Train Crash
"We found one body and we don't think we are going to find any more," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Trotter of the Metropolitan Police.

"Our current estimate is that the majority of people escaped from there. We have all got to be grateful for that."

The BBC's Peter Hunt: "A clearer picture is emerging"
Pathologists have spent two days carefully searching the remains of the front carriage of the Great Western express which collided with a commuter service run by Thames Trains near Paddington Station in west London on Tuesday.

Dozens of people are still unaccounted for, but that number is dropping fast as people are being tracked down, said Mr Trotter.

"We are confident there are not any genuinely missing people amongst those numbers," he said.

[ image: A family united in grief]
A family united in grief
He said that the temperature of the fire in carriage H had not been as high as previously thought.

This meant that paper items had survived in the coach, and this would enable police to identify further bodies.

Thirty-one bodies have been recovered from the wreckage, of which 21 have been identified.

Prayers for the victims

An investigation into the accident is continuing, but the government has already confirmed that track and signal operator Railtrack is to be stripped of its role in overseeing passenger safety on the railways.

The BBC's Tom Heap: "John Prescott has highlighted a conflict of interest"
Up to 400 bouquets of flowers have been laid at the site of the crash at Ladbroke Grove, west London.

Prayers for the victims were said at church services throughout the day.

Several hundred people gathered near the crash site for a memorial service at at the Sainsbury's supermarket in Ladbroke Grove, which served as a makeshift hospital for the wounded on Tuesday.

"The enormity of the Paddington rail crash tragedy is still being realised as we stand here today," they were told by the Bishop of Kensington, the Right Reverend Michael Colclough.

[ image: The Bishop of Kensington:
The Bishop of Kensington: "We live with danger all the time"
"We pray for all those who have been affected by the terrible accident that happened so close to where we stand."

The decision to remove Railtrack's safety role was taken by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.

"We do think there's a conflict of interest here," he told BBC One's On The Record.

"We always said this kind of organisation of the railway would lead to a blame culture, it was fragmented, everybody would want to blame everybody else."

Emergency legislation will be drafted for the next parliamentary session following the Paddington crash and a damning report into Railtrack's safety record, delivered to ministers on the day of the accident.

Details of the plans will be outlined in a statement to the House of Lords on Monday by the Transport Secretary Lord Macdonald.

[ image: Bouquets at the site cover a 30ft area]
Bouquets at the site cover a 30ft area
Responsibility for safety will be transferred to either a new independent safety authority, or the Health and Safety Executive.

Railtrack's Chief Executive Gerald Corbett said Railtrack endorsed the move.

But he said the signal at the centre of the Paddington rail crash inquiry, signal 109, had not been at fault.

"109 was in good working order with all the lights showing red," he said. "It was approved by HMRI (Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate) as recently as March."

Mr Prescott has also appointed a team of inspectors to carry out an immediate investigation into Railtrack's safety record following the crash.

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