Official rail safety expert 'backed wrong system'

A HIGH-PROFILE rail expert appointed by John Prescott is expected to face bitter criticism for backing a cheap safety system that would have failed to avert a series of disasters.

In a report to be delivered to the Deputy Prime Minister in the new year, Sir David Davies will endorse the train protection warning system (TPWS) as a short-term measure to enhance safety. That contradicts the recommendations of a series of in-depth reports into fatal crashes which calls for the introduction of the fail-safe automatic train protection (ATP) system as soon as possible.

However Sir David, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, will predict that the industry will be forced in the longer term to introduce the most sophisticated form of ATP, which would almost eliminate the need for a driver. Nevertheless it was difficult to predict when, he said. Sir David, who was appointed to examine train safety after the Paddington disaster, is still considering whether in the medium term the network should move to upgrade TPWS, introduce a basic ATP device or wait until the more advanced systems are available.

The arguments were rehearsed in a private session of last week's rail summit. Vernon Hince of the RMT rail union warned Sir David that TPWS would leave 70 per cent of trains without proper protection because it was not effectiveabove 70mph. It would have prevented the Paddington crash, in which 31 people were killed, but not the Southall, Watford or Cannon Street crashes, all of which involved fatalities.

Sir David told The Independent yesterday that he was convinced that TPWS was the immediate solution. "Nothing could be fitted faster," he said. Under plans agreed last week Mr Prescott, who is Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, hopes to introduce TPWS quicker than planned so that a third of trains are protected by 2001, three-quarters by 2002 and all trains by 2003.

Mick Rix, the general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef, registered his opposition to Sir David's proposals. "I am convinced that ATP should be introduced across the network as quickly as possible, instead of this half-way house," he said. Mr Rix said that an impressive German ATP system, which can be "bolted on" to 20-year-old trains, could be fitted across the British network in five years. "The Germans think we are living in a bloody museum," he said.

Peter Rayner, a rail consultant and former British Rail operations manager, said Sir David's endorsement of TPWS would enable Mr Prescott to "save face", but might prove a diversion from the real solution. "We must not let them sell us an inferior system," he said.

Professor John Uff, who presided over the inquiry into the Southall crash in 1997, and Lord Cullen, who will chair the Paddington hearing, will also produce joint recommendations in the new year on competing safety systems.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn