Railtrack appeal on signal 109 'delays Paddington inquiry'

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The Independent Online

Railtrack provoked fresh outrage yesterday after it was accused of delaying the investigation into the Paddington disaster by appealing against a ban on the use of SN 109, the signal at the heart of the crash.

Railtrack provoked fresh outrage yesterday after it was accused of delaying the investigation into the Paddington disaster by appealing against a ban on the use of SN 109, the signal at the heart of the crash.

The beleaguered rail infrastructure company also registered an appeal against improvement notices from rail inspectors calling for an urgent review of lights passed at red throughout the system.

Vic Coleman, Chief Inspector of Railways, said the procedures activated by Railtrack would mean a diversion of resources away from the investigation into the Paddington crash on 5 October when 30 people died and more than 250 were injured. He said it was a "distraction" and found the company's decision "odd". Jonathan Bray of the pressure group Save Our Railways said he was "astonished" at the appeals, which could delay the investigation.

As well as the prohibition of signal 109, Railtrack has been urged to improve 22 other lights jumped at red five times or more and review others passed at danger more than once.

A Railtrack spokeswoman said it appealed because the company had been accused of breaching the law and might find it faced litigation. It would be doing the work required by inspectors in any case. Mr Coleman recognised the company's right of appeal, but said he would be defending his decisions "vigorously".

In the second interim report on the Paddington accident, Mr Coleman also said he issued improvement notices against Central Trains and Northern Spirit after they gave "inadequate" replies to a rail inspectorate inquiry on how operators were dealing with signals passed at danger (Spads).

The rail inspectors said there were deficiencies in briefing drivers how to avoid such incidents.

Railtrack's six-monthly figures on Thursday are expected to show pre-tax profits of up to £235m, putting it on course for full-year returns of £450m - compared with £428m in the year to last May.

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