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Inevitability a factor


The reaction to the regrettable and avoidable crash at Hatfield is too predictable. The knee jerk reactions range from Gerald Corbett's 'thinking the unthinkable' to cries for a reduction in the number of operators and the age old mantra that priviatisation has put profit before safety.

Railways are a statisically safe mode of travel. More money may reduce the number of deaths but if the aim is to make the public more safe, I have no doubt that the £5bn promised by John Prescott to spend on roads and motorways would save more deaths.

The convenience factor is by far the most important determinant in journey choice.

Increasing delays (while maintenance is carried out) will force commuters from trains to cars, where their chances of being killed or injured are significantly greater. The switch will hit the profits of the train operating companies and ultimately Railtrack and will limit investment over the long term.

So long as Railtrack is contractually bound to recompense the TOCs for loss of access the same commercial pressures will exist. There needs to be a rethink of the contractual framework within which these companies exist. It may call for an amalgamation of operation and asset ownership, or some other form of mutually rewarding incentives.

As a regular commuter I have no disagreement with attempts to make railways safer but there is the economics of diminishing return. No transport system is infallible and never will be, regardless of the amount of money spent on it.

Joe Colgan (AMICE), 5 Selworthy, Furzton, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK4 1HA

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