Friday, October 29, 1999 Published at 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Paddington signal 'partly obscured'
A black box similar to that recovered from the Paddington crash
The key signal at the centre of the Paddington rail tragedy could have been partly obscured by overhead line equipment, the second interim report into the disaster has said.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report says the Thames driver selected neutral five seconds before the collision, and then used the emergency brakes two seconds before the collision, in which 30 people died.
The report said further testing of signal 109 and related equipment had reinforced the initial interim report's finding that signalling was not at fault.
The aim was to view a wide range of signals from the Thames driver's position.
The report said signal 109 would have been visible, "although initially partly obscured by overhead line equipment, for seven seconds at the permitted approach speed of 60mph."
The HSE said nothing observed provided definite evidence about what the driver - father-of-two Michael Hodder, 31, who died in the crash - would have seen.
Brake testing of the Thames train is to be attempted, but could prove difficult because of the damage.
The HSE repeated its view, expressed in its first interim report, that the initial cause of the accident appeared to be the Thames train passing a red signal before colliding with the London-bound Great Western Express at Ladbroke Grove.
But it said there were likely to be "complex" reasons for the train passing the red light and added: "We continue to believe that it is a failure involving many contributory factors and that any action or omission on the part of the driver was only one such factor."
The report said brake and wheel slide protection testing on the rear power car of the Great Western train had found nothing which could have fundamentally affected the ability of the express train to stop.
The first interim report from the HSE - published a few days after the crash - confirmed the Thames train went through a red light just outside Paddington and carried on for 700 metres before the collision.
'Further tests planned'
A complete picture of the accident is only likely to come when a full report is published in several months' time.
The HSE's deputy chief inspector of railways, Bob Smallwood said: "Further tests are planned to assess the operability of the automatic warning system on both trains and on samples of the fuel.
"Initial analysis suggests there was nothing unusual about the fuel which would have led to raised fire risks.
"Work is also in hand to look at the spread of the fire, the crashworthiness of the vehicles and human factors issues."