Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

After Hatfield, a New Nightmare for GNER; YORKSHIRE TRAIN DISASTER ;Two Fatal Crashes in Four Months but Firm Not at Fault

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

After Hatfield, a New Nightmare for GNER; YORKSHIRE TRAIN DISASTER ;Two Fatal Crashes in Four Months but Firm Not at Fault

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK BENHAM;DANIELLE GUSMAROLI

TRAIN OPERATOR Great North Eastern Railways has now been involved in two major rail disasters in the past four months, the second of which is today's crash at Great Heck which has killed at least 13 people.

The company prides itself on an award-winning customer service on the key East Coast main line between London and Edinburgh. But, through no apparent fault of its own, GNER has become associated with the dangers of travelling by train.

It was a GNER train that derailed at Hatfield on 17 October. The London to Leeds express struck a broken rail at 115mph, killing four passengers. Coming so soon after Hatfield, the timing of this second derailment, on the York to London King's Cross route, is a disaster for GNER.

Its passengers have probably been the worst affected by Railtrack's rail repairs programme in the past four months. Journeys to Edinburgh were taking more than nine hour,s with delays of several hours common. Even before the rail crisis its 123 daily services were plagued by rising delays. In the three months until October one in four of its trains arrived late - a nine per cent increase on the previous year.

GNER owner Sea Containers is bidding for the huge and lucrative South West Trains franchise, which carries 300,000 passengers a day into Waterloo. There is no immediate question that these accidents will affect its bid but, in an industry where public profile and safety is vital, its reputation has been tarnished, through no fault of its own.

The company is by no means totally secure in its current franchise. Virgin Trains' Sir Richard Branson has his eyes on GNER's East Coast route.

GNER carries 35,000 passengers a day, mostly on the route from King's Cross through Peterborough, York and Newcastle to Edinburgh. Today's crash is the most serious since the Paddington crash in October 1999, when a commuter train went through a red light and smashed into an oncoming express, killing 31 people. …

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