Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Record [Pound]100m Fine for Rail Companies over Late Trains

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Record [Pound]100m Fine for Rail Companies over Late Trains

Article excerpt

Byline: DICK MURRAY

TRAIN companies have been fined a record [pound]100million for late-running services, it is revealed today.

The news comes at the same time as the railway watchdog highlights an increase in the number of signals passed at danger (Spads).

The Strategic Rail Authority's annual report shows that Connex South Eastern, the busiest commuter region, was fined the most, at [pound]12.5million, for poor services - of which [pound]8.6million was because of late trains - and South West Trains was fined [pound]11.5million, most of which was for poor punctuality.

Rail safety chiefs have also warned the train companies that they are so concerned at the increase in Spads - 56 last month, including 22 described as "serious", and the highest monthly number since the Hatfield disaster last October - that it could launch legal action.

The Health and Safety Executive has identified and written to 10 companies which it says have not done enough to reduce Spads.

They include Thames Trains, whose Turbo service passed through Signal 109 at red in October 1999, leading to the Paddington crash in which 31 people died.

Connex South Central is also warned that it must reduce Spads, as are First Great Eastern, First Great Western, GNER and Anglia, all of which serve London. Last year, the number of Spads rose eight per cent from 593 to 643.

The reports come less than two days after a Connex South Eastern commuter train passed a red signal at St Mary Cray Junction in Kent and was seconds away from colliding with another commuter service.

Transport Minister John Spellar said he was "concerned" at the latest Spad figures and that the Connex "near-miss only serves to underline the vital importance of tackling this immediately".

Dr Bob Smallwood, the HSE's deputy chief railways inspector, said: "There are two key areas where real improvement is required. First, investigations must be done promptly and must find the root cause [of Spads]. This does not always happen. Second, the industry must find more effective ways of reducing the numbers of multiple Spad signals - those which have a history of more than one Spad. …

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