BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Rail safety in the spotlight
Does the Hatfield rail disaster indicate that travelling on Britain's railways is fundamentally unsafe
Hatfield will add to fears about rail safety
The Hatfield train crash has once again called into question the safety of rail transport in Britain.

The public will question the safety of British railways in comparison with other EU countries, and also the relative safety of railways in comparison with the road.

But statistics on rail safety compiled by the Paris-based monitoring group International Union of Railways (IUR) suggest rail travel in the UK is among the safest in Europe.

However, some rail experts say the situation has changed since the figures were compiled.

For the last year that statistics are available, 1998, Britain had an average of 0.23 deaths per million kilometres travelled - the fourth best record in the EU.

In comparison, Germany which had 1.93 deaths per million kilometres travelled - the worst in the EU.

car crash
Commuters are 25 times more likely to be killed in a car crash
However, the German figures include the horrific crash in May 1998 of an Inter City Express (ICE) which slammed into a bridge in Eschede.

That crash killed more than 100 people and accounted for almost all that year's fatalities.

In 1997, Britain had the sixth worst record in Europe, according to the IUR, mainly because of the Southall train crash in September of that year.

When the figures for 1999 and 2000 are collated they are likely to see Britain among the worst in Europe.

Rail safety expert Peter Rayner believes Britain is being left behind countries like Germany and France, though both countries have had high profile rail disasters.


They put a price on each life and concluded it was not worth it


Peter Rayner, rail safety expert

Mr Rayner, the former chief operating manager of the London Midland Region, said: "The rest of Europe went down the road of Automatic Train Protection (ATP) in the late 1980s and 1990s, while our government did a cost benefit analysis.

"They put a price on each life and concluded it was not worth it, but ATP would have prevented Paddington, Southall and may have prevented Hatfield if that train was going too fast.

"The previous government said ATP was not worth 400m, but they spent twice that on privatising the network which fragmented the system."

Mr Rayner told BBC News Online that, while rail safety in Britain lags behind the rest of Europe, it remains a much safer form of transport than road.

Road safety

Stephen Joseph, of the environmental lobby group Transport 2000, said it would be a mistake for commuters to return to their car because of fears over rail safety.

"Looking at the statistics, it would not be a logical thing to do.

"Paddington, which was the worst rail accident in recent years killed 31 people, but road accidents killed 3,400 last year, seriously injured 35,000 others and caused slight injury to 300,000 people.

Eschente rail crash
Rail crashes like the one in Eschede in Germany can distort rail safety statistics

"The problem is that we expect the railways to be safe. We give control over them to someone else, but we feel our safety is in our own hands when we drive a car.

"This is reflected in the fact there is not a separate road accident expectorate like there is for trains and planes. Car crash investigations are all left to the police."

The figures released by the IUR indicate that in 1997, the last year for which comparisons are available, a commuter is 25 times more likely to be killed on the road as they are on Europe's railways.

Professor of transport studies at University College, London, Andrew Evans said after the Paddington disaster that commuters were far more likely to be killed getting to the station than any time on their rail journey.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"It is clear that improving safety on the railway is going to cost money"
Hertfordshire train crash


The investigation

Background

CLICKABLE GUIDE

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes