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Sunday, 1 October, 2000, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Pam Warren: Life after Paddington
On 5 October 1999 31 people died and 259 were injured in a terrible train crash that took place just outside Paddington station in London. Survivor Pam Warren talks to BBC News Online about her recovery and campaign for better rail safety.
Pam Warren was once a successful pensions adviser with her own business. Her life was changed irrevocably on the morning of 5 October 1999 when she caught the doomed 6.03 First Great Western express to Paddington.
Her face and hands were badly burnt in the fireball that engulfed carriage H of the Great Western train.
She was in hospital for more than three months and has had several major operations. Skin has been grafted from her inner arms and thighs onto her face and hands.
These days Pam, 33, is the articulate spokeswoman for the Paddington Survivors' Group, intent on highlighting the fact that little has changed in terms of rail safety one year after the crash.
"I can tell you on a personal level it is very difficult each morning for me to get up and do anything. Sometimes you just feel like lying there and wishing everything would go away," she says.
Pam is instantly recognisable because of the clear plastic mask she has to wear to ensure the scar tissue on her face heals properly.
Still on morphine and in a great deal of pain she describes her recovery as "slow but sure".
"I've never been a great believer in waving my injuries around, but having said that, I've still got another 12 months of more operations, and more pain. I'm not even sure when the mask is going to come off."
As a result of her injuries she has been forced to sell her business. And she doubts she will return to her previous career.
"However much movement I get back in my hands they look very, very unsightly and a lot of my work was giving presentations - so waving unsightly hands around - from a confidence point of view - I don't think I could."
'Sense of purpose'
"It does give me a sense of purpose and it does give me something to get up for.
"I'd like to think it has helped all the survivors that have joined simply because we've all got a shared experience.
"While we have difficulty explaining to our family or friends how we felt on that day and what we still feel, when you are talking to anther survivor you don't have to explain.
"We've all got to know each other very well, so from a social point of view it's quite good fun as well.
"We are all helping each other to try and repair ourselves."
'Nothing has changed'
The group is campaigning fiercely for improvements to rail safety.
"The thing that really shocks me is that occasionally when I caught the train before this happened, I did think back very occasionally to the Southall crash. But I made an assumption. I thought 'they will have learnt their lessons and things must be a lot safer now'.
"The problem is people are now catching the train today thinking exactly the same as me, but frighteningly it hasn't changed.
"They are asking for another train crash to happen - although God forbid it does - but we are in constant fear at the Paddington Survivors' Group that that is exactly what will happen."
Putting the pressure on
"Certainly the Paddington Survivors' Group will stick around long enough to let the public know what is being done," she says.
Specifically the group has come up with a 10-point plan to improve rail safety.
Their demands include an independent authority to look after rail safety, similar to the civil aviation authority in the airline industry.
They also want the Advanced Train Protection system (ATP) to be brought in - which would stop any train crossing a red light.
The group rejects the cheaper alternative system known as the Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) because it cannot stop trains over 70 mph.
But, controversially, it is this system which is being introduced across the UK.
Pam and the some other group members recently met the chief executive of Railtrack, Gerald Corbett. She says she found him very sympathetic to the group's demands.
"It is possible they were telling us things that they knew we wanted to hear.
"But at the same time, if they stand by what they were telling us, we are quite hopeful that they will start helping us in our campaigning."
Rail safety week
There will be a stall at Paddington station and group members will encourage rail travellers to sign a petition. The week will culminate with the group taking their petition to 10 Downing Street.
"The purpose of the rail safety week is to bring back into the public arena the idea that a year on from what happened at Ladbroke Grove, nothing has changed," says Pam.
"They are still running the same risks today as we ran on 5 October 1999."
Disaster at Paddington, a BBC documentary, will be broadcast on 3 October 2000 on BBC ONE at 2250-2340.
Paddington Survivors Group, PO Box 4015, Pangbourne, Berks, RG8 7YF. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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