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Time for government to get a grip on railways


I have watched with horror as the events of the Potters Bar rail crash are shown on TV.

I feel great sympathy for the victims on the train, on the platform and within the railway companies involved. Such tragedies are completely unacceptable - but who is to blame and what should be done?

I worked for British Rail at King's Cross in the late 1980s. If I were still in that job, I would be at that site today. The people involved in Railtrack, the train operators and the regulatory authorities are good, professional people who work hard and try their best, doubly so since Hatfield, Paddington and Great Heck.

Yet here we are again. Who will now want to enter railway management?

In so many accident investigations, the immediate causes are identified yet the fundamental lack of control is missed. I believe that the railway network is now so complex both in commercial operation and in regulation that professionals cannot make the railway work.

No doubt, full and detailed recommendations will arise from inquiries that follow Potters Bar. We must not miss the fundamental lack of control this time.

The government must simplify the operation of the railways, preferably by integrating operation of trains and maintenance of the track and infrastructure. It must also simplify the regulation of the railways. It must ensure that the procedures for running a safe railway are clear, concise, understood and able to be implemented by the ordinary human beings who run our industry.

Steve Bielby, steve@bielby.

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