The Big Question: Whose reputation is at stake over the Paddington rail crash? - Two years after seven people died in the train crash at Southall, up to 40 are feared dead following the collision of a Thames Turbo train and a Great Western Trains express



Solicitor for Southall train crash victims

’John Prescott’s reputation is at stake. When the report on the Clapham

crash came out in 1989, then Secretary of State for Transport Cecil

Parkinson said the findings should be implemented, and that finance was

not a problem.

This included, in particular, Automatic Train Protection. John Prescott

has now said money will not stand in the way of the best safety system

when the recommendations come out of the enquiries. But governments do

say these things, then when the dust has settled, let the issue


Prescott has to ensure his words are followed through. The Government

decides on the safety regime and is responsible for ensuring it is


However bad any of the rail companies are, they are operating within a

hierarchy that has been laid down by Parliament.’



’I would like to express my greatest sympathy from those in the industry

to those who suffered as a result of this tragedy. This terrible

accident is so enormous in its impact that thinking about scapegoats is

not relevant at this time. It is something both the rail industry and

the Government will have to work very hard to overcome. It is not a

question of an individual reputation or apportioning blame. All needs to

be done to ensure that confidence in rail travel is restored and



Phipps PR

’A lot of time has been spent apportioning blame. The fact is, the

public has, over the years, deserted the railways for the car;

successive Governments responded by moving investment elsewhere.

Railtrack and the operating companies are just pawns in the process,

with their reputations already in tatters. It is the Government’s

reputation which is now at stake. The Government has done well recently

to achieve broad consensus over its transport policy of switching people

from roads to rail - we have reluctantly accepted that delays may be

inevitable - but the public cannot be expected to accept compromises on

safety. The real test of the Government’s credibility will be how it

responds to the call for investment in the next few days or weeks.’



’There is a shared sense of shock and grief across the industry and our

deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of the bereaved

and injured. The priority for all - the railway industry, Health and

Safety Executive, regulators and the Government - is to find out

urgently exactly what went wrong, to learn lessons and, collectively, to

take every possible step to prevent such a horrific accident ever

happening again. Apportioning blame is not perhaps the best thing to do

at this early stage. Both Lord Cullen’s public enquiry and Sir David

Davies’ review of early warning systems are to be warmly welcomed. The

communications challenge for the whole industry is to win back any lost

public confidence at a time when increasing number of passengers are

choosing to travel by rail.’

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in