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Regulating safety: time to act

News Debate over the need for an overarching transport safety body has been around for years.

TWO YEARS ago Transport Select Committee chair Gwyneth Dunwoody introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill to the House of Commons which raised the case for the creation of an independent transport safety authority.

This week the Committee again called for the Government to introduce primary legislation to bring about an overarching safety watchdog 'without delay.' Its demand is based on the same issues raised in the past by Dunwoody.

The arguments for the safety body are based on the principle that the public has a right to expect the highest levels of safety in public transport because safety has been taken out of their hands.

Dunwoody said various disasters had shown that safety had not been given the same priority by management as other factors such as financial efficiency. The Ladbroke Grove train crash has raised the issue again.

This recent tragedy also raised question marks surrounding conflicts of interest within safety enforcement and safety investigation. HM Railway Inspectorate is investigating last month's crash. Yet the same body has been involved in the design of the Paddington scheme from its conception ( NCE 28 October).

Overseas, concern about the combination of regulation and accident investigation has led to the establishment of independent public transport safety agencies such as the National Transportation Safety Board in the USA.

With so much at stake the UK Government will no doubt be forced to take a very serious look at the arguments. But whether legislation will follow is another matter.

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