Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

FATAL BLUNDER AT PADDINGTON; Signallers Watched but Failed to Stop Disaster Collision

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

FATAL BLUNDER AT PADDINGTON; Signallers Watched but Failed to Stop Disaster Collision

Article excerpt

Byline: DICK MURRAY

By Dick Murray, Transport Editor RAILTRACK signallers who watched the tragedy of the Paddington train crash unfold on their control panel are condemned today for their lack of action.

Lord Cullen, in his report into the disaster in which 31 died and more than 500 were injured, said that if they had reacted earlier, they "could have avoided a collision".

The signallers are also criticised for the evidence they gave to the public inquiry into the disaster of October 1999. There were "difficulties with the account" and also "inconsistencies" with their evidence.

Railtrack is also condemned for its "lamentable failure" over events which led to the disaster. There was a "lack of appreciation within Railtrack that deficiencies in the infrastructure could play a significant part in signals passed at danger", says Lord Cullen.

The rail industry generally is condemned for its "institutional paralysis" in dealing with safety-related matters.

The disaster occurred after Michael Hodder, 31, drove his Thames Trains turbo through the now infamous Signal 109 shortly after leaving Paddington station.

He continued unchecked for 700 metres and into the path of a Great Western Express heading into London. The two trains met at a combined speed of 130mph. Both drivers were among those who died.

Signal 109 had been passed previously eight times at danger in six years and there had been repeated written and verbal warnings to Railtrack to get something done - but they were ignored. Railtrack's failure, said Lord Cullen, was "persistent and serious".

Thames Trains is also criticised for its poor driver training. Lord Cullen says: "The most obvious lacuna (gap)" was

that the Thames Trains driving instructor "did not recognise it as part of his job to teach route knowledge".

Mr Hodder's training was "not adequate". His experience was slender and there were "training shortcomings". Although the exact reason why he passed through 109 at red will never be known, Lord Cullen said he "probably he believed he had a proceed aspect".

The Railway Inspectorate is blamed for deficiencies in three key areas: lack of resources, lack of vigour and "placing too much trust" in those expected to do the job. …

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