Letter: In peril on the rails

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The continuing correspondence (29 October) on the Paddington rail disaster and the general question of risk analysis reveal a multitude of misconceptions.

Most frequently, such erudition is centred on comparison of road and rail fatalities. This is usually presented in terms of "since the Paddington crash, which resulted in x deaths, y deaths have occurred on the roads". The implication is that travelling by train is safer than road transport.

Such a comparison is meaningless, for it takes no account of the variability of risk to those of us venturing on to the roads. No regard is taken of the effects of old age or youthfulness, poor eyesight or deafness, other medical conditions, poor road drill and a host of other factors.

In contrast, all rail travellers present themselves with none of these distinguishing features to a public organisation to whom they entrust their lives, having paid a fee. There is an obligation on those providers to transport the public safely, particularly when that service runs on rails and cannot fall out of the sky like an aircraft.

JOHN B BYFIELD

Yetminster, Dorset

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