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Monday, 30 October, 2000, 12:48 GMT
'Strip Railtrack of safety role'

The Paddington crash cost 31 lives
Relatives of people killed in the Paddington and Southall train crashes have called for Railtrack to be stripped of its safety role.

Representatives of the victims and their families said the Hatfield crash two weeks ago showed the track operating company could no longer be trusted.

They were speaking before the opening of the second part of the public inquiry into the Paddington crash.

Louise Christian, of the Southall and Ladbroke Grove Solicitors Group, said an independent watchdog should be appointed to oversee rail safety, and the Railtrack board should resign.

A broken rail has been identified as the major cause of the Hatfield derailment, that left four people dead and a number injured.

There was nothing wrong with the technical expertise given to Railtrack. They simply did nothing.

Louise Christian
Ms Christian said that before the Southall, Ladbroke Grove and Hatfield crashes "the public were not told about the wholly unacceptable risk on the railways".

She said: "Railtrack knew that Signal 109 had been passed at danger (the cause of the Paddington crash) and they had meetings to discuss it for over five years.

"They were warned before the Paddington crash that the last thing they should do was to do nothing.

"There was nothing wrong with the technical expertise given to Railtrack. They simply did nothing.

"We believe that the same failure to act is what caused Hatfield to crash.

Inquiry is looking at signals passed at danger
"Railtrack knew of the danger to the travelling public. They had meetings about it and were advised about it but they did not act."

The first half of the Ladbroke Grove inquiry, chaired by Lord Cullen, ended on September 28.

It was set up to investigate the causes of the Paddington crash, which killed 31 people, in October 1999.

The second part will look at "how the rail industry handles accidents", the new structure of the rail industry and government policy on increasing rail use.

Two trains collided at Southall
It was due to begin on Monday afternoon, but has now been postponed because of the travel chaos caused by overnight storms.

It is expected to last around two months and will consider a selection of derailments and SPADs (signals passed at danger) at Newton Junction in 1991 and 1998, Watford in 1996, Bexley in 1997 as well as the Southall and Paddington crashes.

Reports on the inquiry as a whole, however, are not expected to be published until some time in 2001.

The Southall disaster in September 1997 killed seven people when a First Great Western train ran into an empty freight train.

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