Prescott backtracks on Railtrack safety role

24 Feb 00
Relatives of those who died in the Paddington train crash have criticised the 'U-turn' by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in allowing the rail operating company Railtrack to retain much of its safety role.

25 February 2000

Shortly after the crash in October, Prescott said he was 'minded' to strip Railtrack of its responsibility for safety in the industry. But this week he told the House of Commons that the company would retain control over safety of its stations, signalling and track through a 'free-standing' subsidiary company.

The Railtrack subsidiary would include representatives from inside and outside the industry, would be run by a board independent of the main Railtrack board, and would appoint a chief executive to be paid according to his or her safety record, Prescott said.

Responsibility for the 25 train operating companies' safety record will go to the Health and Safety Executive, however. This was a 'significant step towards a safer and more secure system,' Prescott said. 'Railtrack's dominance of the industry's safety agenda has not delivered and it must end.'

But a representative of the families of the 31 people who died in the Paddington crash said: 'We do not think that Railtrack's dual roles – commercial and safety – are compatible. There is a conflict of interest.'

Diana Macaulay, whose 26-year-old son died in the crash, said that allowing Railtrack its safety role was 'like putting Peter Rabbit in charge of a lettuce patch'. Crash survivor David Taylor said: 'This is a complete U-turn.'


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