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The Day Britain stopped: Full coverage
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Wreckage of Southall rail crash
7 people are killed and 150 injured in the Southall rail crash
1990 The National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport is formed.

1992 There are about 10,289 miles of railway routes in Britain.

1994 The national rail network is privatised and Railtrack is created to take over the running of tracks, signals and stations from British Rail. Twenty five private train operators receive franchises and pay Railtrack to use the infrastructure.

1996 Railtrack becomes a private firm and completely severs its links with British Rail. It floats on the Stock market with shares priced at 360p, raising 1.93bn for the government, but only after 1bn of debts are written-off.

The government continues to subsidise Railtrack, to the tune of 1.5bn by June 2001. Transport Secretary Stephen Byers authorises a further 500m rescue package in March 2002.

In August one person is killed and 69 injured when a passenger train passes through two signals and collides with an empty train at Watford.

The Health and Safety Executive calls on Railtrack to install better warning systems and upgrade braking systems on some trains after driver Peter Afford is found not guilty of manslaughter.

1997 An express passenger train collides with a freight train at Southall, killing seven and injuring 150. An inquiry finds that the passenger train driver had passed three red lights and that warning equipment was switched off.

Manslaughter charges against driver Larry Harrison are dropped - as are corporate manslaughter charges against Great Western Trains - because no manager could be identified as being guilty of reckless behaviour.

But the company was fined 1.5m after pleading guilty to a charge of exposing passengers to risk.

1998 The government announces that it now favours Public-Private Partnerships to fund the railway system.

1999 On 5 October 31 people are killed and 400 injured during a crash at Ladbroke Grove, just outside Paddington station. A passenger train passes through a red signal and collides with another as the train's ATPS fails to work.

The Cullen Inquiry blames Railtrack for a "lamentable failure" to respond to the problem of trains going through red signals. It also criticises Thames Trains for "incompetent management" and poor driver training.

The inquiry report contains 89 recommendations, including calls for the Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) to be installed on all trains by 2004 and the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) by 2010.

Both systems activate the train's brakes if it passes through a red light with the ERTMS system being compatible with European signalling and capable of working at higher speeds than TPWS.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott orders TPWS to be installed on all trains by the end of 2003, costing 260m. In 2000 he pledges 60bn to improve rail safety over the next 10 years, allowing for the fitting of more sophisticated warning systems.

A Health and Safety report criticises the rail industry for not heeding the warnings of the 1996 Watford crash. Railtrack shares hit a peak price of 17.

London Underground is restructured to prepare for Public Private Partnership.

Railtrack makes changes to railway rules in October to make drivers solely responsible for safety on trains. Unions criticise the Driver Only Operation System for reducing the role of guards to "Kit-Kat sellers".

A planned RMT strike action is blocked by the High Court when a judge rules that the union members' argument is against Railtrack not the Train Operating Companies that employ them.


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