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Monday, 11 October, 1999, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Money no object on rail safety - Prescott
The accident has claimed more than 70 lives
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has said "finance isn't a problem" in introducing new safety measures to the UK's railways following the Paddington train crash.

London Train Crash
The collision between two rush-hour trains is one of the worst railway accidents in British history.

Mr Prescott has confirmed that Scottish judge Lord Cullen will head a public inquiry into Tuesday's disaster, which is feared to have claimed the lives of at least 70 people.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Prescott said safety had the highest priority and finance would be no object to that goal.

He said: "Finance isn't a problem."

Unions demand protection

The money could come from the rail industry but "it is not a problem, it will be provided".

"The question is what is the proper balance that gives us the effective level of safety, that's my obligation, to make a judgement about it.

"I have now set up a body to look at whether that was right but I will be judged on what I think was the best decision of putting safety right at the fore of our decision making."

John Prescott: "I thought that judgement was right"
Aslef, the rail drivers' union, has demanded that train operators introduce the Automatic Train Protection system, which was recommended in the report into the 1988 Clapham train crash which killed 35 people.

The estimated cost of fitting the sophisticated ATP system, which is already in place in some high-speed trains, across the rail network is 1bn.

The government's preferred system is the Train Protection Warning System, which will be fitted across the rail network by the end of 2003 at a cost of 150m.

The safety system being introduced to British trains is a balance between TPWS on the majority of trains and ATP on high-speed trains and other modern networks, said the deputy prime minister.

Mr Prescott said as transport secretary he had been told TPWS would improve safety by up to 80% and could be fitted within three or four years.

ATP calls rejected

He said: "That was the alternative they gave me, I said 'yes, get on with it'.

"We want to get this system in, we want a safer railway system, it wasn't a matter about costs. I hear these arguments about 250m for one and a 1bn for another - a 1bn isn't a great amount of money, quite frankly."

A review of the separate systems of train safety systems will be headed by Sir David Davies who will deliver an assessment to Mr Prescott by the end of the year.

Mr Prescott said if the report recommended ATP over other systems he would give the authorisation for it to be implemented immediately.

He added that at the time he had not wanted any more delay in introducing a safety system.

But Mr Prescott rejected calls for the ATP system to be installed immediately and said it was a matter for Lord Cullen's inquiry.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott: "Finance isn't a problem"
Video
BBC News' Angus Roxburgh: Britain lags behind Europe on safety
Video
The BBC's Angus Roxburgh: "Automatic Protection System's are expensive but highly effective"
See also:

06 Oct 99 | London train crash
06 Oct 99 | UK Politics
07 Oct 99 | UK Politics
07 Oct 99 | UK Politics
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