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Tuesday, October 19, 1999 Published at 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK


Safety crackdown as Paddington reopens

The crash closed the station for more than a fortnight

Paddington Station is to reopen on Wednesday night after one of the worst rail disasters in the UK.

London Train Crash
Thirty people are known to have died and 245 were injured in the 5 October crash when a Thames commuter train passed a red signal, crashing into a crowded Great Western express train at the height of the rush hour.

The station will reopen at 2359 BST with services resuming early on Thursday morning, although peak services will be reduced.

The Health and Safety Executive agreed the re-opening, despite examining a report by a former head of signalling for Railtrack which said several signals at the station were dangerously obscured and should be taken out of use.

However signal 109, passed at red by one of the trains involved in the collision, will not be in use and other signals have been adjusted.

There will be revised speed limits as low as 40mph between Paddington and Ladbroke Grove, the scene of the crash.

The BBC's Simon Montague: "There are new fears about the signals"
The move comes as public fears over rail safety have been further heightened by the collision between two trains at Lewes, East Sussex, on Monday night.

Immediate measures to improve safety on the railways are to be discussed when rail executives and union leaders meet the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, next week.

Mr Prescott, who announced the plan during a statement to MPs, said he had summoned the managing directors of all passenger and freight operators, the shadow Strategic Rail Authority, the rail regulator, Railtrack and the general secretaries of the rail unions.

They would "thrash out any immediate and additional steps that can be taken to improve safety", he told MPs.

The rail chiefs will focus on HSE reports on cases of signals passed at danger and Railtrack's safety and standards directorate.

[ image: The collision resulted in 30 deaths]
The collision resulted in 30 deaths
The deputy prime minister repeated that the government wanted to remove safety regulation from Railtrack, but "careful consideration" would be given to who should take it on.

He told MPs that the Paddington collision had to be "a watershed for railway safety".

He said: "We must make it so. We must emphasise to everyone concerned that safety comes first, second and third on Britain's railways."

The deputy prime minister urged MPs not to "leap to hasty conclusions" on the cause of the Paddington disaster.

He reminded them that he had established two inquiries to look into safety factors.

Martin Salter, Labour MP for Reading West, said Railtrack "did not have the confidence of the travelling public".

Mr Salter, from whose constituency many of those injured in the crash came from, said people were angry that the disaster had occurred so soon after the 1997 Southall disaster on the same area of track.

Gwyneth Dunwoody, chair of the parliamentary committee covering transport matters, suggested that a confidential hotline be set up so rail staff could tell investigators about the pressures they worked under.

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