Fears grow on railway safety

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The Independent Online
A POWERFUL cross-party committee of MPs will this week raise serious concerns over the level of safety on Britain's railways. The report by the Commons Select Committee on Environment, Transport and the Regions comes as concern mounts over safety and vandalism of the track network.

The committee took evidence over the summer from Railtrack and the companies that carry out maintenance work, as well as the British Transport Police, the Health and Safety Executive and experts on risk management.

The report will be published on Wednesday, the day before Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Railways produces its annual report for the period that includes the Southall rail crash.

The HMRI report will show that the number of serious accidents is still down but that the number of people killed rose because of Southall, in which seven people died and 147 were injured. Great Western Trains and the train driver have been charged with manslaughter.

The industry is also preparing for the 10th anniversary on Saturday of the Clapham train crash, in which 35 people died. Faulty signalling was blamed for the accident in which a commuter train ran into the back of another train.

An official accident report made 93 recommendations, including the provision within five years across the network of automatic train protection (ATP), an in-cab commuter system which automatically prevents trains going through danger signals. But plans to introduce ATP were abandoned when it was deemed too expensive.

There is growing concern over the levels of vandalism on the railway. A fortnight ago, a Euston to Inverness sleeper train hit two stolen vans on the track near Edinburgh.