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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

Software Engineer - C++

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software En...

Software Team Leader - C++

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software Tea...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor