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Railtrack appeals againstsignal prohibition notice

NEWS

RAILTRACK HAS appealed against the Rail Inspectorate's decision to ban use of its fatal track layout into Paddington and this week continued to claim the high speed junction was safe for passenger trains.

The network manager denied that the design of its remodelled Paddington signalling scheme broke Health & Safety regulations by increasing the risk of train collisions - as alleged in the HMRI prohibition notice served after the tragic crash at Ladbroke Grove.

News of the appeal - which will be heard on 5 November - came as an expert report criticising the entire remodelled network into Paddington as 'confusing' and 'badly designed' was leaked to the press on Tuesday. The layout is still to receive formal approval by HMRI (NCE 14 October).

Thirty people were killed and 245 injured two weeks ago when a Thames Trains commuter service passed through a red signal and collided with a Great Western Intercity service heading into Paddington.

HMRI's prohibition prevents Railtrack from using signal SN109 - the signal passed just before the crash - and the entire line out of Paddington, until modifications to the signal are made.

But Railtrack is expected to claim that these changes are unnecessary. A spokeswoman said: 'The prohibition notice is incorrect in fact and law and we do not accept we have been in breach of the law.'

News of the appeal was immediately condemned by the lawyer acting for Southall and Paddington crash victims, Louise Christian.

She told NCE: 'Everybody is trying to shift the blame and protect their own backs. Railtrack is denying responsibility as far as visibility of signals goes.'

This week's leaked report on the Paddington layout by former British Rail senior managers Peter Rayner and Roy Bell confirmed safety fears. It claimed many of the signals were hard to see and recommended that 19 be removed.

According to the report,factors making the remodelled signalling system confusing included:

too much bi-directional working;

inconsistent junction indicators;

signals obscured by structures and overhead power lines;

multiple signal gantries on curves;

red lights moved, making them difficult to see; and

prominent junction indicators confusing drivers

The report was compiled by Bell after two visits to the crash site on behalf of law firm Thomsons which represents train drivers union ASLEF.

Co-author Rayner said: 'The system is designed by engineers with no input from drivers. They have put the signals in the most extraordinary places. If my name had been on the timetable I would not have allowed the signals to remain in use.'

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