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John Prescott
"The fuller analysis is going on in Cullen."
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Hugh Dykes
"The mistakes which were swept under the carpet at that stage are now beginning to come out."
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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 16:02 GMT
Prescott pledges safe railways

Seven people died in the crash in 1997

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has suggested there could be substantial changes to the way the UK's railways operate.

Mr Prescott, who has responsibility for transport, said he was working to make the country's railways safer in the wake of the Southall and Paddington crashes.

The report raises concerns about the rail sell-off
The author of the report into the Southall collision published on Thursday, Professor John Uff, said that he believed that there was still "a long way to go" to sort out "inherent problems" in rail privatisation.

Professor Uff said: "What's clear is that the task is still incomplete despite the fact the privatisation occurred some years ago."

Liberal Democrat backbencher Hugh Dykes has called on the government to introduce primary legislation to end the conflicts of interest created by privatisation.

But Mr Prescott said although he was implementing some improvements, he was waiting for the report into last year's Paddington disaster by Lord Cullen before deciding whether to introduce any reforms of how the rail network is run.

Asked whether he would not rule out a major shake up the railway system, Mr Prescott said: "No I don't, I think that may well come.

"That's why I've set up Cullen to do that, he did the same in the North Sea [following the Piper Alpha disaster] and that's why I chose him to have this more fundamental approach.

'Best safety system'

Mr Prescott continued: "What I want to do is to make sure I'm doing everything I can possibly can to get the best safety system.

"But the final analysis will be conducted by Cullen as he looks at the railway system.

"I'm being asked both by relatives, solicitors and others rightly so. Don't pre-empt the decision and I haven't pre-empted the decision.

"What I've done is to make some decisions to make this railway system safer while the fuller analysis is going on in Cullen."

John Prescott: Will not pre-empt Cullen report
Mr Prescott acknowledged Professor Uff's criticism that privatisation had led to conflict of interests.

But he denied that he had reversed a previous policy proposal on Tuesday when he announced that Railtrack would keep its safety role.

Liberal Democrat Hugh Dykes said the privatisation of the system was one of the worst pieces of legislation the last government passed.

'Flawed legislation'

He said: "The mistakes which were swept under the carpet at that stage are now beginning to come out."

Mr Dykes said he believed there was a direct link in the way the railways were privatised and the findings of reports like Professor Uff's.

"It shows what happens when governments all too easily bring in very flawed legislation based on ideological norms rather than practical common sense," he said.

He called on the government to introduce legislation to reassure the public.

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See also:
24 Feb 00 |  UK
Driver blamed for Southall crash
24 Feb 00 |  UK
Main points of Southall report
22 Feb 00 |  UK
Railtrack keeps safety role
22 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Rail safety: What the politicians said
22 Feb 00 |  Talking Point
Can Railtrack protect passengers?
22 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
'Prescott U-turns again'

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