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John Prescott
"I am passionate about safety"
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Saturday, 21 October, 2000, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Cranes shift train wreckage
It could be weeks before the line re-opens
The complex operation to shift wreckage gets under way
Huge cranes have started shifting wreckage from the scene of the Hatfield train crash.

The lead locomotive and two carriages are being moved on to low-loader trailers four days after the train derailed at high speed, killing four people and injuring more than 30.

Police and rail inspectors have completed their search of the area, but it could be weeks before the line is open again.

An interim report has found that a broken rail was the likely cause of the crash, 17 miles north of London's King's Cross station.

Union demonstration

Union activists staged a demonstration on Saturday outside the head office of Railtrack, calling for the railways to be re-nationalised.

The protest had been planned before the Hatfield derailment, under the banner "No More Paddingtons", in reference to last year's crash which killed 31 passengers.

Louise Christian, solicitor for the bereaved families of the Southall and Paddington rail crashes, was among the 200 people at the protest.

She said: "I have come to show solidarity from the bereaved and injured. This has been a very traumatic week for them because of Hatfield.

"It is like a dreadful nightmare in which something is happening again and again, like an awful groundhog day."

Geoff Martin of Unison told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the government "really has to seize the initiative" in re-nationalising the rail service.

He said evidence shows the public is in favour of it.

Saturday's demonstration also called for an end to plans to partly privatise London Underground.

The chairman of British Rail at the time of privatisation, Sir Bob Reid, said the previous Conservative government had hurried the sale.

Experts scrutinise locomotive equipment
Another fingertip search is needed
"They wanted to complete their privatisation, which had been eminently successful, and British Rail was the last piece left to be done. And they went for it too quickly.

"They decided they wanted to do it, and the best way to do it was in totality, and that was the mistake," he told Today.

The first wreckage to be moved is being taken to a depot in Crewe where experts will take a closer look.

The remaining carriages and rear locomotive are expected to be taken to the depot over the weekend.

British Transport Police Chief Inspector Brain Gosden said: "The plan is to keep lifting and removing the wreckage and we will need to undertake another fingertip search once the three overturned carriages have been lifted."

Search for evidence

The site will be handed back to rail operators once the search for evidence is completed and officers are satisfied no "external cause", such as vandalism, was responsible for the derailment.

In Tuesday's accident the GNER passenger train, heading from London to Leeds, was travelling at around 115mph when it derailed on a curved section of track.

The initial Health and Safety Executive investigation into the crash found that track defects were "a substantial cause of the accident".

It found no evidence that the signalling or trains were defective.

An emotional visit to Hatfield crash site
Relatives of the victims visited the Hatfield crash site on Friday
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott insisted on Friday that Railtrack must reveal what steps it is taking to identify faulty tracks.

He said it was obvious the company had not met its commitments on track repairs, but said he was willing to listen to requests for help.

Pieces of the damaged rail thought to have sparked the tragedy are being examined to establish why it failed.

A specific type of metal fatigue is thought to be the most likely cause.

The phenomenon has been seen elsewhere in Europe but has only been recognised in the last two years.

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