Letter: Cost of safety on a privatised railway

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The Independent Online
Sir: In your article 'BR planned to fit radios in crash cabs', (19 October) you refer to '. . . Automatic Train Protection, a device to stop a train automatically if it goes through a red light'. This is a common fault of the media in reporting technical matters.

ATP is provided to reduce the probability of a train passing a red signal.

In this respect, it is a mandatory control system (unlike Automatic Warning System, which is advisory) that the driver cannot override. Because locomotives and rolling stock use brakes that rely on wheel/rail adhesion to sustain the braking demanded by the driver, even ATP operation under conditions of poor adhesion cannot guarantee the train will stop at the red signal. However, under such conditions drivers will exercise their skill by braking earlier to prevent a run by, hence the ATP is superior to the present AWS and will benefit safety.

The cost of safety is a highly debatable issue and the Government should look at this in relation to the costs being incurred in the move to privatisation, and think again about the latter. Our drivers need the maximum safety provision to perform their duties in all operating conditions. We lag well behind our European partners in such provision and perhaps legislation is required to bring about ATP on BR routes.

Yours sincerely, D. B. NICHOLAS Belper, Derbyshire