Proposed U.K. rail safety system ‘not good enough’

Posted on May 1, 2002

A rail safety system recommended after the 1999 Paddington crash in England is “simply not good enough,” British rail chiefs announced. In an industry report, the rail chiefs recommended that Britain should wait for a more advanced system. Level one of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), which prevents trains from going through danger signals, was recommended at a public inquiry last year. Level one of the system was deemed unsuitable and the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) recommended that railways should wait for level two, which is not ready yet. “The basic systems ready for use now are simply not good enough and would actually reduce capacity and force people onto our already crowded roads,” said SRA Chairman Richard Bowker. The SRA report said that, with level one, capacity would be reduced more than 10% and its quick implementation would reduce transport safety overall. Level two would increase capacity by up to 10%, and a version of it was included in the West Coast line modernization, which is due for completion by 2005. An official public inquiry report last year said ERTMS should be introduced on all 100-mph lines in the U.K. by 2010. The SRA gave no time frame for implementation of level two except to say that work could start in 2008. Going for the level two option would mean high-speed lines would not be fitted entirely until around 2015. The ERTMS includes the automatic train protection (ATP) system, which was initially recommended after the 1988 Clapham rail incident that claimed 35 lives. The Train Protection and Warning System technology, which will be fitted across the entire network by the end of next year, is expected to mitigate more than 80% of ATP-preventable deaths.

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