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 Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 18:33 GMT
Safety fears after Tube crash
Derailed train
Passengers heard screeching and grinding
Union leaders have called for a public inquiry after Tube bosses admitted mechanical problems with the type of train derailed on Saturday.

London Underground (LU) said a faulty motor may have caused the accident which saw at least 30 people injured when the train jumped the tracks and hit a wall at Chancery Lane.

Tube crash facts
The entire Central Line may be closed until Tuesday
Chancery Lane, St Paul's and Bank (Central Line only) stations closed for several weeks
All 85 trains currently out of service
The line normally has 500,000 passengers a day
Disruption worse than after the 1987 Kings Cross disaster
There were fears the accident could have thrown asbestos dust into the air but LU have said tests have been negative so far.

All trains on the Central Line have been withdrawn from service for inspection and the route is to remain closed - along with the Waterloo and City line - until Tuesday.

The line is one of the most vital through central London and commuter chaos on Monday morning is unavoidable.

LU hope to get sections of the line east and west of the central area running in "a day or so", but the section around Chancery Lane is likely to be shut down for a few days.

The crashed train is still there and repairs will be needed to the track and platform, with care being taken over the asbestos risk.

Fault reported

Mike Brown, LU's customer services director, said: "All the tests we did show that there hasn't been a release of asbestos in this particular incident.

"We are just doing some more checks that when we move the train from its current position we dont release any asbestos into the surrounding area."

The RMT union said the driver had reported a fault about eight stations before Chancery Lane but was told to continue with the journey.

The train was about to be taken out of service at Holborn, the next station after Chancery Lane.

Derailed train
The windows caved in and the doors opened in the tunnel and we were just bouncing up and down

Marian Cassidy
Mick Rix, general secretary of the train drivers union Aslef, called for a public inquiry into the crash and said all safety work under the controversial Public Private Partnership should now be suspended.

LU have stressed the section of track on which the accident happened was maintained by a wholly-owned subsidiary and not a private contractor.

Officials said its 10-year-old fleet of 85 Central line trains had been modified in recent years because of problems with their motors.

A spokesman said: "Each train is inspected every five days for that particular problem, as well as the routine check that takes place every morning.

"Yesterday's train had been checked for that particular problem two days before and there were no problems.

"It now seems that problems with the motor was a possible cause of the accident."

'Design fault'

RMT official Bobby Law, who was a driver on the line for 20 years, said there had been problems with the motors and the bolts that hold them on for two or three years.

"It is basically a design fault. The bolts have come loose and that has meant that the motors have come loose," he said.

A spokesman for Bombardier, which delivered the train that derailed to LU in 1994, said it was of a design "running for 10 to 12 years now. There has been no major safety concerns as far as I know".

RMT leader Bob Crow said the train driver had earlier reported a fault with the train at Leytonstone station in east London, but was ordered to carry on.

LU said that drivers were responsible for their trains and could refuse to continue a journey if they thought there was a problem.

Terrified passengers

Launching the crash investigation after terrorism was ruled out, Mike Brown, director of stations for London Underground, said: "The priority is to get the causes of the accident as quickly and thoroughly as possible but making sure we leave no stone unturned."

Mr Rix, said Aslef had repeatedly warned about potential problems with Central Line trains.

He said: "There should be an immediate public inquiry into all aspects of maintenance and safety on London Underground.

Map of Chancery Lane area
The area where the train derailed
The train slewed off the line at Chancery Lane just before 1400 GMT, forcing the final few carriages into a wall and mounting the platform.

Terrified passengers reported hearing screeching and banging from beneath the train in the minutes before the accident.

Passenger Marian Cassidy told BBC News: "People were trapped inside, the doors wouldn't open and people were trying to smash the windows."

She said that passengers were screaming as they walked from a carriage inside the tunnel, through an adjoining car and back on to the platform.

Other passengers said the train seemed to have been travelling fast before the accident and that the lights went out, plunging the carriages into darkness.

The driver was treated for smoke inhalation and was breathalysed, but the results were negative.

People who want information about casualties can call the incident line on 0870 0100 732.

  The BBC's Simon Montague
"Clear evidence of how the carriages hit the wall"
  Paul Godier, Managing Director, London Underground
"We need to now await the outcome of the inquiry to understand exactly what went wrong"

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23 Jan 03 | England
03 Feb 02 | Politics
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