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The BBC's Simon Montague reports
"Rail privatisation was a factor in this accident"
 real 28k

John Prescott
"Confusion from fragmented industry"
 real 28k

Louise Christian, solicitor
"There is a conflict of interest"
 real 28k

George Muir, Assoc of Train Operators
"Safety is the first priority"
 real 28k

Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 23:52 GMT
Rail firms face safety deadline


The crash killed seven people


Rail companies have just three weeks to draw up action plans outlining how they aim to implement recommendations made in the Southall crash report.

The report, published on Thursday, fiercely criticised the train company involved, Great Western Trains, and made 93 recommendations including demands for better driver training.

The crash, in which seven people died, was primarily caused by driver error compounded by faulty safety equipment, the official accident report revealed.

Key recommendations
Great Western lines to use ATP
AWS to be regarded as vital
Trials of airline-style safety briefings
New safety authority should be set up
Railway Inspectorate to investigate serious accidents
Railtrack to make annual signal checks
Improvements to driver training
It was welcomed by families of the victims, who urged Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to reconsider his recent decision to leave some safety controls in the hands of Railtrack.

Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, said those affected by the crash had "waited too long for this report they must not wait for action on its findings".

He said those cited in the report, and other train companies, would be given three weeks in which to detail how they would respond to the recommendations.

He told BBC's Newsnight programme the HSE had taken action to improve safety on the railways.

However, Mr Callaghan admitted that the HSE needed more inspectors - and a positive safety culture was needed from the industry - if Britain was to get a safer railway.

Bill Callaghan of the HSE Mr Callaghan:"We need more inspectors"
He admitted he was making strong representations to the government to secure more resources for the executive.

George Muir, of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "We are putting in place the resources to review each of the recommendations and within three weeks deliver an action plan that confirms our position on the recommendations.

"Many of the recommendations have already been put in place because this tragic accident happened two-and-a-half years ago but some of the recommendations will require additional action by us and this action we will take."

Solicitor Louise Christian, representing the families involved in both the Southall and Ladbroke Grove rail crashes, said: "We do welcome the report, we think it is a very thorough well-written and thoughtful report.

Train driver Larry Harrison Train driver Larry Harrison
"We believe this report drives a coach and horses through the idea that safety should remain with Railtrack."

The report revealed that another Great Western driver operating the train had repeatedly complained of a faulty in-cab automatic warning system (AWS).

Another safety system, Automatic Train Protection (ATP), was installed on the train but was not switched on because the driver Larry Harrison, was not trained to use it.

The report said that even if the other driver's warnings had been heeded, lax safety and maintenance procedures would have permitted the train to run.

Seven people died and 139 were injured when the Great Western express from Swansea to London collided with an empty freight train crossing the tracks at Southall, west London, in September 1997.

The report also condemned Railtrack and Great Western for their management of a pilot project of Automatic Train Protection (ATP).

Dr Mike Mitchell, rail director of FirstGroup, which controls Great Western - the firm cited in the report - said his company had already made changes in the light of the accident, including the increased use of the Automatic Train Protection system.

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See also:
24 Feb 00 |  UK
Focus on Southall crash findings
24 Feb 00 |  UK
Main points of Southall report
24 Feb 00 |  UK
Crash report 'weak on safety'
24 Feb 00 |  UK
Driver blamed for Southall crash
27 Jul 99 |  UK
Southall: The crash that killed seven
24 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Prescott pledges safe railways
22 Feb 00 |  UK
Railtrack keeps safety role
21 Feb 00 |  UK
'Never again' say train crash families
11 Oct 99 |  London train crash
Analysis: Is profit to blame?

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