Wednesday, December 9, 1998 Published at 10:18 GMT
Call for independent rail safety body
MPs are concerned safety standards can slip
A new report has called for the removal of responsibility for railway safety from Railtrack, the company which owns and runs the UK's rail network.
Railtrack took over responsibility for safety after the old British Rail network was broken up and sold.
Railtrack safety procedures and monitoring methods of the Health and Safety Executive were both criticised in the report, entitled Railway Safety.
It called for the safety record of train operating companies to be taken into account when their franchises were renewed.
The report also said rail companies were not doing enough about vandalism, which was "a very serious and growing threat to railway safety".
A spokesman for Railtrack said it had commissioned research to look at trespass and vandalism, its causes and effective deterrents.
"We remain committed to improving safety and are already making progress on many of the points raised.
"We do not believe moving the safety and standards directorate away from Railtrack would improve safety, but we will clearly work actively to deliver any specific proposals once the HSE review reports."
The report comes just before the 10th anniversary on December 12 of the Clapham rail disaster in which 35 people died. The triple train crash was caused by faulty signalling.
Jimmy Knapp, leader of rail union the RMT, backed proposals for an independent safety body.
He told BBC Breakfast News: "We believe these [improvements] are fast being lost as a result of privatisation, fragmentation and the contracting out of work. That is actually what is going wrong.
The report also called for a three-year programme to clear lineside debris and repair boundary fences to reduce vandalism and trespass.
The committee also recommended a hotline should be set up by Railtrack and British Transport Police so vandalism could be reported and responded to more quickly.
Included in the report's recommendations and findings are:
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