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New regulations add bite to rail safety plan

THE HEALTH & Safety Commission this week called for new regulations to slash the number of deaths caused by collisions and derailments on the UK's railway network.

The proposals would see Railtrack invest £100M to install automatic train protection systems at signalling danger spots by January 2004. An additional £150M would be needed from train operating companies to scrap old slam-door rolling stock by January 2003.

Launching the draft regulations and a consultative document on Thursday, HSC chairman Frank Davies said that new technology should be used to bring significant safety improvements to the railways.

He added: 'We believe that the only way that progress to a reasonable time scale can be assured is to make new regulations, which could come into force in 1999. The public expects and deserves no less.'

Around 170 incidents of drivers passing stop signals are recorded in the UK every year. Over the past 10 years this has resulted in an average of 64 collisions and derailments each year involving passenger trains.

The HSC document claims that reducing the number of signals passed by two thirds could slash the risk of collisions and derailments by as much as 50%.

Railtrack director of safety and standards Rod Muttram welcomed the HSC document. 'Since this latest directive by the HSE is based on the system we have developed, we of course support it. We will provide a detailed input to the consultation on the draft,' he said.

The company has promised to introduce its first train protection system 'by 2005' as part of a new transmission-based signalling system on the West Coast Main Line upgrade (NCE 23 April). A response to the consultation document is expected by 21 August.

Meanwhile more details of Railtrack's first package on the £2.2bn upgrade emerged this week. The £100M Euston station and approaches re-modelling contract will involve renewing all the track, ballast, overhead catenary and signalling as far as Primrose Hill, and altering the alignment of some of the platforms.

Railtrack is understood to be still in negotiations with Virgin over the level of service to be maintained during construction. The 30 month contract is expected to be awarded to preferred bidder Balfour Beatty, with Westinghouse carrying out signalling work, by the end of June.

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