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The BBC's Tim Hirsch
'The inquiry will resume in the autumn'
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Thursday, 27 July, 2000, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Paddington 'was crash waiting to happen'
Paddington rail crash
Thirty one people lost their lives in the disaster
The Paddington rail disaster was the culmination of Railtrack's "abject failure of management", a lawyer for survivors and bereaved relatives has told the public inquiry into the crash.

Thirty one people died when a local service belonging to Thames Trains crashed into a London-bound Great Western high-speed train at Ladbroke Grove last October.

This disaster is, above all else, a story of an abject failure of management

John Hendy QC
Barrister John Hendy, giving his closing submission to the first stage of the Ladbroke Grove Inquiry, said the train crash was a catastrophe waiting to happen.

"This disaster is, above all else, a story of an abject failure of management," he said.

He said the dangers of the rail system at the entrance to Paddington had been recognised by rail chiefs, but not acted upon, adding: "The bereaved and injured now have no confidence that Railtrack is fit to run the railway."

Earlier, bereaved relatives and survivors of the crash told a news conference that the tragedy was caused by buck-passing from the companies involved and could have been prevented.

I have sat and listened to people passing the buck

Widow Catherine Wood
Birgit Andersen, whose daughter Charlotte, 32, died in the crash, told a news conference: "I thought that one of the most disappointing things I have heard during the inquiry so far, was the cavalier attitude of Railtrack regarding safety."

She added: "It is disappointing that no party will be brought to account for this tragedy. After so many were injured and 31 have died, I don't know of anybody who has been relieved of their duty or made redundant."

Crash site
Survivors have criticised train safety systems
The inquiry, chaired by Lord Cullen, has heard from 332 witnesses over the past 47 days.

Closing submissions by the various parties to the inquiry - including the bereaved and survivors, Railtrack, the train operators and British Transport Police - will last until Friday.

Part One of the inquiry, examining the causes of the crash and lessons to be learned from it, will not formally end until September.

Part Two of the inquiry, which will examine accidents since the Clapham crash in 1998 and make recommendations for improving safety, follows towards the end of the year.

Survivors and the bereaved are to meet transport minister Lord Macdonald on Friday to press for the introduction of advanced protection systems on the country's trains, saying that the government should not put cost ahead of safety.

'Passengers still in danger'

Disaster survivor Pam Warren told the news conference: "We are not campaigning for ourselves. There are many of us that will never catch a train again. We know now how shabby the system is.

"But we need to protect the people who are still catching the trains, they are in as much danger as we were on October 5, 1999."

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