Rail 'checked on day before crash'

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The Independent Online

A cracked rail caused the derailment of a London Tube train that brought chaos to thousands of commuters on Friday night, London Underground admitted yesterday.

Immediately there were claims that privatisation of the maintenance contract for the tube earlier this year had lead to a decline in the number of routine safety inspections.

London Underground also admitted that the section of track where the derailment occurred had been inspected less than 24 hours before the accident happened, but the fault was not spotted.

Metronet, a consortium headed by the construction company Balfour Beatty, took over the maintenance of the section of track where the derailment occurred - the Piccadilly Line near Barons Court station in west London - in March. It shares the contract for the underground system with Tubelines, a consortium headed by Jarvis.

Bob Crow, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "A cracked rail should have been spotted. Years ago inspections took place every day, but this was reduced to once every 48 hours. We don't know if inspections have been cut back more. Safety procedures have been compromised as a result of privatisation."

An Underground spokesman said the area where the accident happened was normally inspected every 72 hours and other parts of the network inspected at different intervals. He stressed the same regime was in place before Metronet took over.

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