pounds 450m to make rail safer

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The Independent Online
Rail passengers could have had new safety features that prevent disasters like the Watford train crash for the amount of money that was spent on privatising the railways.

A document on automatic train protection, drawn up by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and leaked by Labour yesterday, disclosed that ATP could have been installed throughout the network for pounds 450m.

As first reported in the Independent on Sunday, this is the amount that the Department of Transport and British Rail bosses spent on hiring lawyers, consultants and advisers to break up and sell off the system.

Nationwide introduction of ATP, which prevents almost all accidents due to trains passing signals at dangerous times, exceeding speed limits or running into buffers at a station, was recommended by the Hidden inquiry into the Clapham rail crash in 1988.

Successive transport ministers promised to implement the recommendation, and two pilot schemes were put into operation, but the Government abandoned its pledge on cost grounds. ATP would have saved 76 lives in rail accidents over the past 25 years, says the parliamentary advisory body - an average of three a year.

Glenda Jackson, Shadow Transport Minister, said: "The Government had a clear choice between ATP and rail privatisation and opted for privatisation.

"When he was Transport Secretary, Brian Mawhinney personally guaranteed that this safety system would be introduced, and yet again he has reneged on a Tory pledge. Taxpayers will decide for themselves whether rail safety or privatised fat cats represent better value for their cash."