High-tech rail safety system 10 years away, inquiry told

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The Independent Online

Relatives of passengers killed in the Paddington and Southall rail disasters were warned yesterday that it would be more than a decade before a state-of-the-art safety system could be fully installed.

Relatives of passengers killed in the Paddington and Southall rail disasters were warned yesterday that it would be more than a decade before a state-of-the-art safety system could be fully installed.

On the eve of the anniversary of the Paddington crash, in which 31 people lost their lives, in a submission to the joint inquiry into the Paddington and Southall accidents, Sir David Davies, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) approved by the European Union would need three years of trials and could not be fully installed before 2012.

Campaigners are demanding the introduction of ATP, which automatically stops trains if they pass a red light, but which has been considered too expensive to install.

Sir David defended his advice to the Government that the cheaper and less effective Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) should be introduced as a stopgap. He said the system could be installed by 2004.

TPWS is not effective for trains travelling faster than 75mph and may not have averted the Southall crash, in which seven people died.

Sir David accepted, however, that ATP was "the way ahead in the longer term".

Louise Christian, lead solicitor for the bereaved, said the installation of TPWS would delay full train protection as rail companies would not spend money on two systems at the same time. "We believe they should put in the best possible system as quickly as possible."

The Independent revealed on Monday that Railtrack had prepared itself for manslaughter charges because it had not introduced ATP nationally.

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