Passengers to pay for £2bn rail safety system

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The Independent Online

Rail passengers are likely to to foot most of the bill for the automatic train protection system (ATP) demanded after the Paddington disaster.

Rail passengers are likely to to foot most of the bill for the automatic train protection system (ATP) demanded after the Paddington disaster.

The cost of introducing the electronic hardware is around £1bn, according to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, but Railtrack argues that it could be as much as £2bn.

As services resumed from Paddington yesterday after the crash outside the west London station on 5 October, Gerald Corbett, Railtrack's chief executive, promised to foot the bill for the system.

Installation, he added, would depend on whether his company was allowed to increase "access" charges levied on train operators which use the network. Invariably such costs would be passed on to passengers, which by industry estimates could mean an average surcharge of £1 per journey.Unions have called for the system to be funded from Railtrack's profits, which reached £500m last year.

A spokesman for the company said there was nothing new in Mr Corbett's comments. Railtrack was already committed to introducing the train protection warning system, a cheaper safety device at £200m, and was looking to develop new forms of train protection for high speed lines, he said.

So far Railtrack has only agreed to install ATP on selected lines including the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the West Coast Main Line and Great Western lines into Paddington

Giving evidence to the House Commons Transport Committee, Mr Prescott said investment was vitally needed in the railways but added: "Operating a safe railway - that's Railtrack's first consideration, not its share price."

Mr Prescott promised to act at once to remove safety responsibilities from Railtrack, if an inquiry team backed the recommendations of a Health and Safety Executive report. "If there is substance in this and it is necessary to act to safeguard the highest standards of safety in the railways, I will act immediately," he said.

* Three train companies are today due to seek an injunction which could severely restrict the right to strike of more than 60,000 rail workers.

Virgin, Connex South Central and South West Trains are trying to prevent a 24-hour walkout next Friday by thousands of guards, claiming they are not responsible for changes to their duties.

Train operators contend that the stoppage constitutes unlawful secondary action, because Railtrack is responsible for the rulebook changes. If they are successful it would call into question the right of train company employees to take industrial action on any change to the rulebook. The document covers a wide range of conditions of employment.

Guards at ScotRail have voted to join the nationwide strike allegedly over safety, but their colleagues at Midland Mainline decided against, it emerged yesterday.

The results mean that guards at 19 companies have now voted to strike.