London Tube 'safe from fire'

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The Independent Online

Press Association

London Underground has spent pounds 1bn introducing state-of-the-art fire prevention measures designed to make sure there will never be a disaster like the one in Azerbaijan.

The experience of the 1987 King's Cross fire, which claimed the lives of 31 people, prompted a big review of safety measures. And yesterday the Underground's spokesman, Robin Pulford, declared: "It's inconceivable that the Baku tragedy could happen here."

Many of those who died at King's Cross were caught in the inferno which started as "smouldering" on an escalator caused by a dropped cigarette, but others perished in thick smoke which filled station passageways.

King's Cross management embarked on an urgent pounds 1bn task of replacing virtually all flammable or smoke-producing materials in stations, trains and tunnels. Old electrical cables, including those running along tunnels between stations, were replaced with modern fire resistant insulation which produced minimal toxic fumes when overheated, said a railway consultant, Richard Hope.

Most noticeable for passengers was removal of the varnished plywood which used to surround many escalators.

"I would think the fire safety on London Underground is now very good,'' he said. "There has been a tremendous cultural change since King's Cross. But obviously there are still things to be done - there are still trains built in the 1950s which aren't as safe as the latest ones."

Other British metro systems also had modern fire-safe materials, he said. The Tyneside Metro was opened in 1980, the Glasgow Underground had been completely rebuilt and the metro-style section of Merseyrail was also up-to-date.