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Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 22:22 GMT 23:22 UK

UK Politics

Prescott orders rail safety review

One of the trains may have jumped a red light

BBC News' Peter Morgan: Fears over conflict between safety and profit
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has announced an urgent independent review of train safety systems following the London rail crash.

Mr Prescott said he would "leave no stone unturned in ensuring a safe railway system in which the public has confidence."

London Train Crash
The announcement came as it was revealed that the investigation into Tuesday's crash was focusing on the possibility that the collision happened because one train failed to stop at a red light.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announces the independent assessment of rail safety
It follows growing pressure on Mr Prescott to take action on rail safety following Tuesday's crash near the scene of the 1997 Southall train crash.

The train drivers' union, Aslef, is threatening strike action unless rail companies agree to the nationwide installation of the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system as well as in-cab radios.

Gerald Corbett, Chief Executive of Railtrack: Every SPAD is investigated
ATP, which prevents trains passing red lights, was recommended by the report on the 1988 Clapham rail crash in which 35 people were killed.

However, in August, Mr Prescott said a cheaper alternative would be deployed across the network by 2004.

[ image: John Prescott: Every effort will be made to ensure a safe rail system]
John Prescott: Every effort will be made to ensure a safe rail system
Mr Prescott said the new review would examine which was the best system.

The review will be chaired by Sir David Davies, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and will make its initial findings public by early December.

Sir David's report will be separate from the current public inquiry into the Southall rail crash and the public inquiry into the Paddington disaster announced by Mr Prescott on Tuesday.

The BBC's Simon Montague: "Railtrack say the signals were in working order"
Mr Prescott said his appointment did not prejudge either inquiry's conclusions. However, the review's findings will be made available to the Southall inquiry.

'Determined to get answers'

Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie visited people injured in Tuesday's crash in hospital on Wednesday morning.

He said the survivors wanted to know how and why the accident happened and what could be done to ensure it is not repeated.

"We are determined that we will get those answers as fully and as swiftly as possible," he said.

"There is a job to be done in rebuilding the confidence in the safety of our railways after this and it is important that we establish the full facts and as deeply as we possibly can."

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