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Doubts over 'common' track layout


THE TYPE of track layout which took the 08:06 Thames Turbo train into the path of the Great Western high speed service at Ladbroke Grove is common, sparking concern that the accident may be repeated elsewhere.

Scott Wilson Railways managing director Martin Nielsen said that the route the Thames train took, crossing over a conflicting high speed line to reach the main line out of Paddington, was something which 'could be expected at any major station in the country'.

He added: 'It is possibly no more dangerous than the situation which exists on many freight sidings.'

With signal SN109 set at red, the interlocking system meant the nearest points were set to stop the Thames train travelling on to line 2 (see diagram). However, further down the track a second set of points took the train on to line 2.

The managing director of another rail consultant said there should be an urgent review of track layout design.

'The whole interface between fast and slow trains needs to be looked at,' he said. 'There should be independent safety audits of track designs before they are constructed. We cannot rely only on checking at the approvals stage.'

The Ladbroke Grove junction was remodelled by British Rail Western Region engineers in 1993. The 700m safety overlap between signal SN109 and the points merging line 3 with line 2 easily exceeded the 400m overlap typically used.

Some railway engineers have claimed that a sand trap at the end of line 3 into which the Thames train could have run would have reduced the number of fatalities in the accident. But a Railtrack spokeswoman said: 'Sand traps are used on freight lines but are now illegal for passenger lines. They are considered to pose more of a risk to passengers than allowing trains passing signals at danger to run on to another line.'

Asked if Railtrack would now rethink the design of track layouts she added: 'That is a matter for the public inquiry.'

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