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Report slams track safety procedure

RAIL CONTRACTORS are ignoring safety procedures on the rail network and risking a 'potentially catastrophic accident', a rail industry-backed review has revealed.

The Railway Group Safety Plan highlights 'a worrying trend in the number of incidents that could have led to serious accidents'. Although published by Railtrack on 10 March in partnership with 52 groups including Eurostar, Virgin Trains and Heathrow Express, the damning text went unreported at the time.

The main problems, it says, stem from contractors taking control of track at short notice, and have led to protection systems being installed in the wrong locations and trains running through work sites without adequate warning.

'Many of the incidents can clearly be put down to a lack of site knowledge by individuals,' cites the report. 'Problems occur because of late changes to possession arrangements. This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding and can consequently lead to a potentially catastrophic accident.'

The report acknowledges the need to tighten procedures so that all work is properly planned. 'It is only by identifying and tackling these risks across the industry that safety performance can be improved,' it says.

Railtrack hit back at criticism of procedures, notably from the Rail, Maritime & Transport Union. 'We have not suffered a single fatality of a track worker in1997 for the first time in 150 years,' said a Railtrack spokesman.

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