New system used to assess dangers

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The Independent Online
London Underground has developed a method of assessing the different risks to passengers in an effort to target resources towards the most serious dangers of Tube travel.

At a cost of pounds 1m, it has completed a Quantified Risk Assessment, which involves attempting to assess the probability of different risks such as a derailment, an escalator fire or flooding. This allows comparisons and gives a basis for decisions on where investment is most needed. A list of events that would lead to a disaster is drawn up into a 'fault tree' and then an estimate of the probability of each one is made.

The probability of being killed in a fire on the Tube is 2.5 chances per million per year, about the same as from a gas fire at home.

According to the assessment, collision between trains accounts for 4.6 per cent of the risks compared with 3.5 per cent for fires overall and 0.3 per cent for station fires. Falling off the platform accounts for 2.9 per cent.

Alan Osborne, the safety and quality director, reckons that money was wasted in the initial stages of implementing the 157 recommendations of the Fennell report into the King's Cross disaster.

He said: 'One of the first things we did after King's Cross was to take all the wood off the escalators. That did very little to reduce the risk compared with, say, installing the sprinklers.'

Mr Osborne said that five stations had been brought up to the standards required but that some of this money had been wasted. 'We put fire doors, which can cost as much as a Ford Fiesta, on rooms which were little more than cupboards with a couple of switches inside.'

A change in fire regulations was needed. Mr Osborne said: 'You need broad regulations which just say that management and staff have to minimise risk rather than detailed regulations which lead to a checklist approach to safety.'