Thames is `unsafe for millennium party' claim

FEARS HAVE been raised about safety on the Thames in London, ahead of millennium celebrations in which the river will play a central role.

Campaigners say vital safety measures, including life-saving equipment and tighter regulations on who can sail boats, which were supposed to have been introduced after the Marchioness river boat disaster 10 years ago, have not been implemented.

The Thames will be a focus for the new year festivities with two million people expected to attend bankside celebrations on New Year's Eve. And a million visitors are expected to use river boats to visit the Millennium Dome throughout 2000, according to its organisers.

Despite this, most bridges over the river have no safety equipment. Life buoys, which should be installed at regular intervals along the riverside, are dotted along the bank intermittently.

Southwark Council, which administers a large stretch of the south bank, claims it is not responsible for such matters - but it said that it had installed some life buoys and safety chains "following recent incidents and in particular in the anticipated huge attendance at the millennium celebration".

Another authority, Hammersmith and Fulham Council, says it has no plans to install life buoys or other safety equipment on the riverside or Hammersmith bridge.

"We do not have much use of the river here," said a council spokesman. Emphasis instead is put on prevention, with fences and warning notices. Campaigners have asked for loop chains to be installed along riverside walls and around bridge supports, allowing anyone who falls into the water to hold on until help arrives. There are chains alongside Battersea Park where the walls are particularly sheer. But few other locations have them.

Margaret Lockwood Croft, of the Marchioness Action Group, who lost her son Shaun in the 1989 disaster, said: "I think it is inexcusable that many of these problems were known, even before 51 people died on the Marchioness, yet even now nothing has been done."

Gareth Pierce, a solicitor who represents survivors and families of the victims, yesterday condemned the decision to hold the millennium night celebrations on the Thames.

She said: "The most foolhardy gesture that could have made to celebrate millennium night was to deliberately congregate as many people as possible on a dangerous waterway at night, where there has been a catastrophic disaster which remains still unresolved in terms of safety, rescue or who was in charge."

In September, the Secretary of State for Transport, John Prescott, appointed Lord Justice Clarke to head an inquiry into Thames river safety. Many groups and individuals have already raised major concerns over safety in their submissions to the inquiry.

Mr Prescott requested that the inquiry's interim recommendations be delivered in time for the millennium. But even if recommendations are made it is unlikely that any could be implemented in time.

And there are other worries about the celebrations: currently there are no proper drink-drive laws applicable to river users; inexperienced sailors are allowed to navigate the tidal Thames unsupervised; and no organisation has overall responsibility for search and rescue on the river.

Superintendent Rob Glen, a former head of the river police, said yesterday: "When I was at the Thames police I suggested the same laws should be implemented as on the road. This was strongly resisted by river users."

The former Newham South MP Nigel Spearing, who has been navigating on the Thames since 1943, told Lord Justice Clarke's inquiry: "Many of us have been asking for chains for the last 10 years, but nothing has been done."

But the biggest unresolved safety issue is that no organisation has overall responsibility for search and rescue on the Thames. Although various organisations including the Port of London Authority, the Metropolitan Police and the fire brigade all have boats which undertake rescues, all make clear that search and rescue is not their responsibility.

Chris Pond, MP for Gravesham, said commercial pressures appeared to have compromised safety in recent rail and other major accidents, adding: "It would be a travesty if this this were to happen on the river Thames too. The stakes are far too high as the families of the 51 victims of the Marchioness disaster will testify."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
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

Teachers required for Cambridge Primary positions Jan 2015

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in Cambridge...

British Sign Language Teaching Assistant

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education are lookin...

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Primary Supply Teacher - Northants

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Primary School Supply Teache...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain