Railway warning system is rejected

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Indy Politics

The Labour Party conference rejected John Prescott's plans for rail safety yesterday in a rebuff to the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Labour Party conference rejected John Prescott's plans for rail safety yesterday in a rebuff to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Delegates urged the Government to introduce the fail-safe automatic train protection (ATP) system throughout the network and not just on high-speed lines.

The less expensive train protection warning system (TPWS) will be introduced on most lines under a multi-billion- pound scheme endorsed by the Government and the industry.

However, a combination of Labour's big union battalions and constituency delegates threw out the plan because it did not offer full protection for passengers. Rail unions pointed out that TPWS would not protect services going more than 75mph.

Vernon Hince, the assistant general secretary of RMT, the industry's biggest union, urged the Government to back the introduction of the more expensive ATP on all routes.

While Mr Prescott has acknowledged that TPWS is not as effective as ATP, he has only confirmed the installation of the up-to-date system on high-speed routes such as the London to Glasgow and Edinburgh services, the Great Western route between the capital and Wales and the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link. Mr Hince told the conference in Brighton that the best system would only cover a "small proportion of the network". Even the less effective TPWS would be fitted to only 40 per cent of signals on other routes, he said.

Mr Prescott said in his speech to the conference that the party should not try to pre-empt the inquiry into rail safety by Professor John Uff, who led the hearing into the 1997 Southall disaster, and Lord Cullen, who chaired the inquiry into last year's Paddington crash.

Safety had always been his top priority, Mr Prescott said, insisting that he was determined that Southall and Paddington should mark a watershed in the standards of passenger protection. "TPWS can save more lives than alternative systems that will take 10 years to install," he said. But the Government was prepared to back any recommendations made by the present inquiry into rail safety, he added.

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