Paddington inquiry starts with one minute silence

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A minute's silence in memory of the 31 victims of the Paddington rail crash was observed today as the inquiry into the disaster opened in London.

A minute's silence in memory of the 31 victims of the Paddington rail crash was observed today as the inquiry into the disaster opened in London.

Inquiry chairman Lord Cullen began proceedings by expressing his sympathy for those bereaved and injured in the accident on October 5.

This was only a preliminary hearing into the two-train morning rush-hour collision and no evidence was heard.

The inquiry proper is expected to start in spring 2000, Lord Cullen said.

The accident happened when a Thames train collided with a London-bound Great Western express train at Ladbroke Grove just outside Paddington station in west London.

Interim accident reports from the Health and Safety Executive have indicated that the Thames train appeared to pass through a red light. It carried on for 700 metres before colliding with the express train.

Both drivers were killed in the crash and more than 400 people were injured.

Today's hearing dealt with determining the people to be represented and matters of procedure.

Lord Cullen said that part one of the Paddington inquiry would find out what happened on October 5 and that he would consider what recommendations he should make for safety on the railways in the future.

A separate joint inquiry into the whole question of train protection systems and signals passed at danger would be held later in 2000. Lord Cullen will chair this inquiry with Professor John Uff, the chairman of the inquiry into the 1997 Southall rail crash which claimed seven lives.

Lord Cullen said part two of the Paddington inquiry would handle general matters of rail safety.

Today's hearing was told that the Attorney General Lord Williams of Mostyn had authorised Lord Cullen to give an undertaking that evidence given to the Paddington inquiry would not be used in any criminal proceedings.

The preliminary hearing came a day after the Southall inquiry finished.

Yesterday the inquiry was told that senior managers at Great Western should take responsibility for the "catalogue of errors" leading up to the events at Southall in west London.

Counsel for the inquiry, Ian Burnett QC, said it was wrong to focus entirely on the failings of the Great Western driver, Larry Harrison.

Mr John Hendy QC, acting for some of the passengers and bereaved families, accused Railtrack, Great Western and the Railway Inspectorate of submitting "complacent" and "defensive" submissions to the inquiry.

But counsel for Great Western said the evidence showed that the company was not an "idiosyncratic and rogue" operator at the time of the crash.

Professor Uff's report into the Southall crash should be ready by the end of January 2000 and will be published later in the year.

Comments