New alarm over safety of trains as standards slip

Paddington disaster: As survivors and relatives of the dead commemorate the first anniversary, more rail signals are being passed
Click to follow

A year after 31 people died in the Paddington disaster, rail safety standards seem to be slipping again, official figures to be released next week show.

A year after 31 people died in the Paddington disaster, rail safety standards seem to be slipping again, official figures to be released next week show.

The Health and Safety Executive is expected to report that the number of trains passing red lights, which dropped after the crash, has started to rise again. It is understood that 48 signals were passed at danger in September - seven fewer than last year, but higher than August. Last December the figure fell to 23.

In the Paddington accident a Thames Trains service leaving the west London station passed through a red light and smashed into a Great Western express.

At 8.11am yesterday - the precise time 12 months ago when the trains collided _ Paddington station came to a standstill as commuters and rail workers took a minute toremember.

A few miles away, on a bridge at Ladbroke Grove, survivors and the bereaved, and members of the rescue services gathered at the spot where the Paddington to Bedwyn stopping service crashed into theLondon-bound express. Prayers were led by the Bishop of Kensington, the Right Rev Michael Colclough.

In a cruel twist, the start of the minute's silence to remember the dead was pierced by the sound of brakes bringing a train to a grinding halt below.

For Birgit Andersen, whose daughter Charlotte, 32, was killed as she travelled to work on the Thames Trains service, it was too much. Mrs Andersen, 56, who had flown from the family home in Washington DC with her husband and younger daughter, leant over the parapet facing the tracks and buried her head in her hands.

She said afterwards: "I just had to come to see this place again, to see where Charlotte took her last breath. It is comforting to be here - I would rather be here than anywhere."

At Paddington amid the countless rail services displayed on the electronic arrivals and departures board, was a simple message which read: "8.05am [to] Bedwyn - This train has been cancelled." The gesture of respect was matched by Great Western, which cancelled its 6.03am from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Beneath the board a small group of survivors - their burns still evident - gathered in remembrance. "It is difficult to stand here and know that a year ago on that minute people lost their lives," said Andrea Bryce, 24, who was so traumatised by the accident that she left her job in London and returned to Aberdeen. "There isn't a moment that goes by when I don't remember it. But I guess the first year is already the hardest."

In their middle was Railtrack's chief executive, Gerald Corbett, a presence which may have jarred with many of those who lost friends and family, but which he insisted was important as a mark of respect.

Peter Macaulay, who lost his 26-year-old son Matthew in the crash, said: "It is time to allow expressions of bitterness and anger to translate into sorrow which we can use in our search for justice."

Within an hour the small group had dispersed and the station returned to the normal bustley - the flowers they left behind the only visible sign of the horrific events of last year.