Firm's `catalogue of errors led to Southall crash'

SENIOR MANAGERS at Great Western Trains were severely rebuked yesterday for a "catalogue of errors" leading to the Southall rail crash. Counsel for the inquiry, Ian Burnett QC, said it was wrong to focus entirely on the failings of the driver, Larry Harrison, for what happened before the crash.

"Although Mr Harrison bears a heavy responsibility for the Southall accident, there is compelling evidence of serious failings within Great Western Trains, his employers," he said.

Mr Burnett was speaking on the closing day of the inquiry into the crash in which a high- speed train operated by Great Western Trains (GWT) from Swansea to Paddington went through a red signal in Southall, west London, in September 1997, colliding with an empty freight train, killing seven passengers and injuring 150 others.

In his submission, Mr Burnett highlighted the failure of the automatic warning system (AWS) equipment in the train and the "non-use" of the automatic train protection system (ATP).

The fault in the AWS had been noted the evening before the crash, he said, and had re-curred at Paddington the following morning. The train should have been "turned" at Swansea, so that the power car with functioning AWS led on the way back to London.

Mr Burnett said he believed Great Western Trains had been informed about the defect but had not acted upon it. He added that the Great Western main line between Bristol and Paddington was fitted with ATP, but at the time of the accident it had not been turned on.

"The detailed investigation of GWT which the Southall accident has spawned reveals an organisation which was seriously under-performing to the detriment of the safety of its customers," he said.

Jonathan Caplan QC, for GWT, said the company accepted it was at fault at the time of the disaster. But he added that the rail industry in general had failed to appreciate the importance of the early warning system and GWT was no exception.

John Hendy QC, acting for some of the passengers and bereaved families, called for ATP to be fitted and operated across the railway.

Anthony Scrivener, QC, acting on behalf of Mr Harrison, said: "Mr Harrison was required to drive a high-speed train on line speed with AWS isolated - no one at this stage appreciated the danger involved in doing so, least of all Mr Harrison, who had never been warned or even trained to drive a train in that condition.

"In the opinion of experts if AWS had been working, it is most probable that the accident would not have taken place."

The closing day of the Southall inquiry was held the day before preliminary hearings were due to begin into the Paddington rail crash of two months ago.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent