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Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
Train driver recruitment 'flawed'
Paddington crash
Thirty-one people died in the Paddington rail crash
There were errors in the recruitment and training of the Thames Trains driver at the centre of the Paddington rail crash, the company director has admitted.

Terrance Worrall, director and general manager of Thames Trains, said he believed the administrative processes had been in some cases "flawed" for the appointment of Michael Hodder.



I have not heard any evidence to suggest he was an incompetent driver

Terrance Worrall
Mr Hodder was among 31 people who died when his Thames turbo train collided with a London-bound Great Western express at Ladbroke Grove on 5 October last year.

Mr Worrall told the inquiry into the crash that one of Mr Hodder's references had not been followed through.

But although procedures had not been followed "to the letter", Mr Worrall defended the driver and said Thames Trains had ended up with a driver who was "no worse than any other".

Thames Trains recruiters had "received a glowing testimony" from the Royal Navy, with which Mr Hodder was employed for 12 years.

But the company had not been aware of his convictions for common assault and affray when it recruited him.

Mr Worrall told the inquiry that the driver recruitment programme had been changed.

Failures

A report into driver training at Thames Trains, which emerged in draft form in March last year, had highlighted concerns about training, including areas such as signals passed at danger.

Mr Worrall admitted that there had been some failures with regard to Mr Hodder, who began his training in February last year.


Paddington aftermath
Rescuers overcame many obstacles to get to the crash victims
With hindsight, he believed that Thames Trains should have provided route maps for drivers such as Mr Hodder on leaving complex areas such as Paddington.

"Michael Hodder had been in and out of Paddington by our own records well over a hundred times, maybe more," Mr Worrall, said.

"I have not heard any evidence to suggest he was an incompetent driver. In fact, I have heard to the contrary."

The inquiry heard that training for drivers had fallen from an average of 46 weeks in 1988 to 38 weeks in 1994, and just 31 weeks in January 1999.

Mr Worrall said training had improved in quality, with psychometric testing introduced in 1998.

Under British Rail, most drivers had been recruited from within the industry and spent two years working as "drivers' assistants", he added.

Company procedure ignored

The inquiry also heard evidence from Lorna Hall, a recruitment manager for Thames Trains.

She told the inquiry Mr Hodder had applied to work for the company after a campaign launched in 1998 to attract more drivers.

He had responded to an advertisement which invited people to supply CVs rather than fill in an application form, she said.

Under cross-examination by Neil Garnham, she admitted that failing to fill in an application form was contrary to Thames Trains procedures.

The inquiry later heard that Mr Hodder had provided Thames Trains with two referees, a Mr Page-Smith, and a Mr Howells, after he was made an offer by the company.

It had emerged after the disaster last October that Mr Page-Smith, who responded to the request for a reference from Thames Trains, was a relative of Mr Hodder.

No checks were in place at the time to make sure that Mr Hodder had not given a relative as a referee, Mrs Hall said.

The inquiry was adjourned until Friday.

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