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A rail against roads


I was saddened, but not surprised, to read that three months after the Great Heck disaster, the Highway Agency's 'working group' has only just met to consider crash barrier standards for motorways and trunk roads, while traffic continues unchecked (NCE 14 July).

There is apparently no timescale for the implementation of improvements and no indication of whether deliberations will cover minor roads which pose similar risks.

Worse still, there seems to be no appreciation by the road industry of the full extent of the dangers.

Contrast this with the Hatfield disaster caused by a broken rail, due to the infamous gauge corner cracking.

Regrettably, Railtrack did not have full knowledge of the extent of the problem, or the point at which a surface crack in the railhead would become critical. This lack of knowledge forced the imposition of network wide speed restrictions until damaged track was replaced.

Both disasters exposed a latent hazard, of which too little was known for the safety regulators to make an effective response. But while Railtrack has reacted to put safety first, there is no safety regulator overseeing all Britain's roads who can drive forward the necessary safety measures in a co-ordinated fashion.

This does not seem to be a responsible way for the transport infrastructure of this country to be managed.

Colin Elliff (M) cspdelliff@tinyworld. co. uk

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