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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 February 2007, 14:51 GMT
It is a very sad day - Branson
Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard praised the driver's actions
Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has said the Cumbria rail crash marked "a very sad day", and paid tribute to the actions of the driver and emergency services.

Sir Richard cut short a family holiday to see the scene of the accident and visit the hospitals treating those injured when the London to Glasgow service derailed at Grayrigg, near Kendal.

"It is a very sad day because of the loss of one life and the injuries caused to other people," he said.

He said the actions of the emergency services, the RAF and the police in dealing with the crash had been "wonderful".

And he hailed the driver of the train, Iain Black, who was badly injured in the crash, as a hero.

The train itself was magnificent - it's built like a tank
Sir Richard Branson

Mr Black had come around a corner, Sir Richard said, to find the line defective before the train started to leave the line.

"He's carried on sitting in his carriage for nearly half a mile, running the train on the stone - he could have tried to get back and protect himself but he didn't, and he's ended up quite badly injured.

"He is a definitely a hero. In the sober light of day we will have to see if he can be recognised as such."

Sir Richard said the strength of the Pendolino train had helped to limit the number of casualties.

"The train itself was magnificent - it's built like a tank.

Iain Black
Mr Black was hailed a hero by the Virgin Trains boss

"I think if it had been any of the old trains the injuries and the mortalities would have been horrendous.

"And each carriage is built like a motor racing car with rolling bars. Not one of the carriages has crumpled, hardly any of the windows have been broken."

He told reporters he had been told that points were to blame for the accident, but he did not know how they had failed.

"Everyone is going to have to learn from this incident and Network Rail are going to have to look at this track problem and make sure nothing like this ever happens again."

'Attention on points'

John Armitt, chief executive of Network Rail, said there was a possibility that something had "gone wrong" under the company's watch.

"At the moment the attention is on a set of points," he confirmed.

"The points simply allow the train to move from one set of tracks to another. If there is a defect in the points it can cause the train to derail."

We are fortunate we have not had a worse accident than we have got here
Thomas Edwards,
Rail Accident Investigation Board

He said there could be "various causes" for a points failure.

"I have to live with the reality that it could be something that has gone wrong on our watch," he said.

Mr Armitt, who will be stepping down from his position in July, said that where a set of points occurred before an accident site it "always makes those points very suspect".

He added there had been general maintenance in the area earlier this month.

Inspections

And Thomas Edwards, lead inspector for the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, said it was "fortunate" there had not been a worse accident.

"Though the train has arrived down the side of an embankment we are fortunate we have not had a worse accident than we have got here," he said.

He said the board would ensure the inquiry into the accident was conducted properly and at the moment investigators were looking at the points.

"We've been and inspected the train, the track and, in particular, we have been focussing our investigations on a set of points in a cutting," he said.

"At the moment we are looking at that to see what it is we can learn from our investigation into those points."


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Sir Richard Branson speaks to reporters



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