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Devilish possessions

Letters

Your news story on the Hatfield crash (NCE last week) revealed a further dimension to concerns I previously expressed concerning track possessions (NCE letters 2 November 2000).

Not only has repair and maintenance been hampered by lack of reasonable access to the track, as I outlined previously, but so have vital inspections of the rails, it seems. These could surely have been carried out effectively, from close quarters, using a track possession, had one been made available.

Possessions are very difficult to arrange and too easily cancelled. The response to my letter, which complained about this, was a deafening silence from those who should be doing something about it. Apart from a generally expressed heartfelt agreement with my views by engineers at the sharp end - both inside and outside Railtrack - who are all hampered by this ludicrous situation, there has been no meaningful action, and great difficulties persist.

For a high tech, but ancient speed sensitive transport system like the rail network, track possessions, because of their safety input, are vital.

They must be given the importance, priority and protection they deserve. This may cause the occasional delay to passengers but nothing compared to the last few months caused by lack of proper track access.

Perhaps the rail regulator, the Strategic Rail Authority and government should solve this between them, and spell out to the train operating companies that track possessions are crucial and the price they must pay for a safe system. It must be made possible to maintain the infrastructure properly, or we will all pay a much heavier penalty.

Frank Paine, chairman, London Bridges Association, 31 Farm Fields, Sanderstead, South Croydon, Surrey, CR2 0HQ

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