THE INSTITUTION of Civil Engineers this week leapt to the defence of the rail industry, reaffirming the superior safety record of rail over road travel.
The ICE was responding to a recent report on Radio 4's Today Programme, damning the state of repair of Britain's rail network. The programme featured an anonymous rail engineer predicting further disasters of the kind that occurred at Potters Bar because of poor maintenance.
'Notwithstanding recent highprofile tragedies such as those at Potters Bar and Ladbroke Grove, statistics demonstrate that rail travel remains a significantly safer option than road travel, ' said the ICE response.
'Every day an average of 10 people are killed on the UK's roads. In 2001 the annual roads death toll was 3,443, including 823 pedestrians.
'The ICE is concerned that these statistics will be considered in isolation and persuade travellers off trains and into motor vehicles - a movement that would serve only to increase the overall travel-related death toll, ' the Institution said.
However, the ICE did recognise the problem of engaging qualified skilled engineers, as highlighted by Today programme's anonymous interviewee.
'The problem is a a very real one. Transport engineers are identified as being in particularly short supply in the profession - a fact highlighted recently by the ICE's Local Transport & Public Realm Survey 2002.
'The ICE is actively campaigning to address the skills shortage across the civil engineering profession, ' said the Institution.