HL Deb 19 October 2000 vol 617 cc1196-208

3.37 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall make a Statement about the tragic railway accident that occurred at 12.23 p.m. on Tuesday 17th October, when the 12.10 p.m. GNER train from King's Cross to Leeds was derailed near Hatfield. Four passengers died and 34 were injured. Noble Lords will want to join me in expressing our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those who lost their lives. We hope too for the fullest possible recovery of those passengers who were injured.

I thank the emergency services for the speed and efficiency with which they responded to the incident. I pay tribute to their dedication and professionalism. I attended the scene of the accident a few hours after it occurred and witnessed at first hand an impressive presence, with the agencies concerned co-operating closely according to well prepared contingency planning.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive's railway inspectorate were sent to the scene of the accident as soon as reports of the incident were received. Fourteen Health and Safety Executive inspectors are currently on site. The Health and Safety Executive will issue a preliminary report tomorrow.

Exercising powers under Section 14(2)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the chairman of the Health and Safety Commission has directed the Health and Safety Executive to conduct an immediate formal investigation into the circumstances of the train derailment. The investigation will look at the underlying issues as well as seeking to establish the cause of the incident. A report will be published as soon as possible. The Health and Safety Executive intends to announce further details of the scope and arrangements of the investigation tomorrow.

The Ladbroke Grove public inquiry is still sitting. Indeed, it is about to consider the whole question of rail safety management, culture and regulation. We do not want to risk delay to the consideration of those important matters. The findings of the HSE's inquiry will be made available to Lord Cullen so that he can consider within his current inquiry what wider implications this latest crash may have for the railway safety regime. Finding out the immediate causes of the derailment, as well as any underlying causes, must be a high priority. The Deputy Prime Minister is following up this incident personally by seeking further reports from the relevant rail authorities.

There has been much speculation about possible causes of the accident. Railtrack has acknowledged that the condition of the track was not good and has stated its preliminary view that a broken rail caused the accident. However, I am sure your Lordships will agree that at this stage, and until we receive the interim HSE report, it would not be right to make assumptions about the causes, which could turn out to be complex. Neither do I consider that it would be helpful at this early stage to speculate on the wider implications that this derailment may have for the rail industry.

However, following a meeting which the Deputy Prime Minister and I had with the chairman of the Health and Safety Commission this morning, I can now make clear a number of points. I can confirm the inspectors' preliminary view that it does not appear likely that the derailment was caused either by a failure of signalling or by a failure of the driver to respond to a stop signal.

Whatever the investigation eventually concludes, the condition of the rails appears to be a significant factor. In the past few years both the rail regulator and the Health and Safety Executive have gone to considerable lengths to make Railtrack improve track quality and increase the resources available for this important maintenance work.

As a precautionary measure, Railtrack has imposed speed restrictions on some other stretches of line with similar characteristics. The Health and Safety Executive's railway inspectorate needs to be certain that the steps taken by Railtrack are adequate to ensure the safety of rail users. At the inspectorate's request, Railtrack has commissioned an independent external assessment of that response. The assessment will be reviewed by the HSE's own staff.

The fact that we have now had a third rail crash with multiple fatalities in little more than three years is a matter of considerable concern to us all. In September 1997, seven passengers were killed at Southall. In October last year, 31 were killed at Ladbroke Grove. Noble Lords will be aware of the very high priority that has been given to safety and of the number of initiatives taken by the Government, regulator and industry in recent years, in particular since the Ladbroke Grove tragedy.

We are entering a new railway era. The Transport Bill now before your Lordships' House will establish the Strategic Rail Authority, giving much needed direction and accountability. Next Monday, the rail regulator will set the level of Railtrack's charges for maintaining and renewing the existing railway for five years starting next April. Our 10-year transport plan provides massive resources to expand and improve the railway. Tuesday's tragic accident is a sombre reminder that in all that we do, whether as government, regulator or industry, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that safety remains the highest priority.

3.43 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I thank the Minister for making his Statement. On behalf of these Benches, I join him in expressing grief and sympathy for those who died or who were injured in the Hatfield accident. Our thoughts are with them and with their families. I also join him in his tribute to the accident and emergency services, the NHS and, indeed, everyone involved with the railway who contributed to the calm and effective response to the disaster and the care of those involved.

First, I start with a plea for honesty, which I am sure the Minister will share. This tragedy, following only a year after Paddington, shows that safety management is still an urgent concern. However, no objective commentator believes for a moment that our railways have become more dangerous during the lifetime of this Government or, indeed, over recent years.

Perhaps I may urge the Minister to give credit to the rail industry for the progress which it continues to make and to make it known to the wider public. Signals passed at danger were down by 30 per cent in the first six months of this year. That follows 1999, which saw the lowest ever number of SPADs across the network. Broken rails were reduced by 32 per cent in the first seven months of this year. The number of collisions and derailments has reduced steadily, with the lowest ever number being recorded last year, despite an extra 1,000 trains running every day.

Although safety problems exist, will the Minister discourage those who fight old battles about the structure of the privatised railway? If it were wrong, we would be the first to join Ministers in calls to change it. We acknowledge that some changes are proposed in the Transport Bill, as the Minister mentioned, but those do not alter the fundamental separation of track from train operations, the use of sub-contractors, or the ownership and operation of trains and infrastructure by profit-making companies.

The Secretary of State has talked repeatedly about ending the blame culture on the railway, and we agree with him. Therefore, will the Minister join me in commending the industry in pulling together in this crisis? Perhaps I may commend the Minister's decision to voice his support yesterday for the chief executive of Railtrack, instead of some of the rather inappropriate briefings that followed Paddington. We, too, support the decision of the Railtrack board to keep him on.

Does the Minister agree that, unless politicians give active and vocal support to those in the industry who try to bring about improvement, we make improvements harder to achieve? At a time such as this, the railway industry depends on the talent and ability of the people who work in it. Will the Minister also acknowledge that Railtrack and the rest of the industry need that support precisely because they are confronted by such a huge agenda of modernisation? Will the Minister acknowledge that the industry now needs the Government and regulators to provide a positive and stable framework which will allow it to get on with the job of investing in and running a modern railway, free of inappropriate political interference?

Does the Minister agree that Railtrack cannot be expected to achieve everything at once? The installation of TPWS, increased rail renewal and network enhancement, along with the determination of drivers to drive more carefully, will all have a detrimental effect on train performance and reliability. Therefore, I fully endorse the Minister's final comment. However, given that we all want safety to be the first priority and that the rail renaissance is still immature, can he make it clear, particularly to the rail regulator, that safety does come first?

Is the Minister concerned about the length of public inquiries? Southall was badly delayed and Paddington is still in progress more than a year after the event. Yesterday Sir Alastair Morton described public inquiries as part of the blame culture, saying that they would delay action for three years. Now that the immediate cause of the accident is pretty well established and that Railtrack has accepted responsibility, perhaps I may commend the Minister for confirming reports in this morning's papers that he has resisted the temptation of another public inquiry. However, perhaps I may suggest that there is a case for a special technical inquiry into the question of track maintenance and for highly technical questions to be asked relating to metal rail fatigue, or will the HSE inquiry cover those matters? Does the Minister believe that the HSE has sufficient expertise?

Does this incident not strengthen the case for a permanent and independent rail accident investigation branch of the DETR, such as the existing equivalents already well established for air and marine accidents, as we on this side of the House have recommended to the Cullen inquiry? Such a body would build up a permanent expertise, act more quickly and acquire public confidence that would lessen the need for adversarial public inquiries which can undermine trust and confidence in the industry.

Finally, the Minister has the grim task of responding to events such as Paddington and Hatfield. Therefore, I assure him of our continued support for his efforts to improve the safety of the railway.

3.49 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, we welcome the Minister's Statement. As did the preceding speaker, we join him in expressing our very real sympathy to those who have been bereaved or injured as a result of the accident. Like others, we welcome the high professionalism of all those who gave assistance to the injured, the distressed and the dying.

The Minister has told us that he moved very quickly to establish two inquiries. We welcome that decision lo move quickly to establish the cause of the accident rather than delaying that process pending legal proceedings, as has occasionally happened in the past. I hope that we can be sure that the conflict between differing inquiries and different groups of people, which was criticised so severely by Professor John Uff in his report on the Southall inquiry, is a thing of the past.

The noble Lord confirmed that Railtrack has admitted that the condition of the track in the vicinity of the accident was "not good" and that the accident could have been caused by poor track and a break in the rail. Will the Minister confirm that the condition of the track was known to Railtrack nine months ago and that further work was to have been done shortly to deal with those cracked rails? Will he explain to the House why no speed limits had been imposed on that section of track before the accident, as has happened on similar sections of track in other places since the accident?

We know that many other sites are affected by the same sorts of problems. Will the Minister tell us what proportion of the network is affected by severe or dangerous difficulties with the track? Will he confirm that incidents of broken rails appear to have grown in the past five years?

The Minister reminded us of the large increase in funds which will be going into Railtrack's capital programme. Unfortunately, Railtrack's published figures do not distinguish repairs from new investment within its overall capital programme. Is the Minister satisfied that maintenance of the track is being given its proper priority within Railtrack's overall investment programme?

The general background to this accident—and in this regard, I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara—is the break-down of the rail system into numerous companies which do not always share a common objective. Indeed, if the Railtrack board had accepted the chief executive's offer to resign, we might have been in an even more dire situation—Railtrack without leadership as well as a rail system without coherence. We welcome the board's decision to retain Gerald Corbett as chief executive.

Is the Minister confident that the structure and kind of regulation to which the industry is subject create the best circumstances for ensuring that necessary and urgent investment takes place?

We recognise that travel by rail is safer than travel by car. Nevertheless, that is no reason for complacency. The effect upon the travelling public of three very serious accidents over a three-year period, to which the Minister referred, is extremely damaging. On the other hand, if we are to make the real investment necessary to overcome those difficulties, we have a problem ensuring also that quality of supply, quality of rail services, is maintained at the same time. Has the Minister any comment to make about that?

Finally, I welcome the Minister's statement that the HSE's findings will be made available immediately to the Cullen inquiry. That seems an extremely sensible use of everybody's time and expertise.

3.53 p.m.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, for an extremely understanding and constructive contribution. I acknowledge readily that credit must be given to the railway industry for the advances made in safety management in recent times. Indeed, the number of signals passed at danger has been reduced significantly. I am pleased that Railtrack felt able to announce earlier this month that the number of broken rails in the half year in question, compared with the previous period, had declined by 32 per cent. There are other areas of improvement in performance which the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, mentioned.

However, we all accept that while reductions of 32 per cent in broken rails and of 25 per cent in signals passed at danger are extremely welcome, the fact that those incidents are still numbered in hundreds remains a cause for great concern. I agree with the noble Lord that we should look forward. Where there has been fragmentation, we must bring about coherence in the industry. Where there has been neglect over decades, we must bring increased investment.

On the question of Railtrack, I repeat what I said yesterday. The railway industry and the British travelling public need a stable and strong Railtrack. Therefore, I am pleased to see that continuity will be maintained in its upper management structures.

I accept too the enormous complexity of the network which employs about 90,000 people with rolling stock travelling over 24,000 miles of track.

With even the most ambitious programmes of investment and the most diligent of employees—and I am sure that we are well served by them—there are the inevitabilities of accidents. That is the probability inside such a complex system. But we must ensure that we have in place the safety management procedures and investment on such a scale that the risk involved is reduced to the minimum achievable, and that remains a challenge.

In the periodic review which the office of the rail regulator has been conducting, I am sure that safety will be a priority, as it is with every other agency inside the railway network.

As to the question of a public inquiry, we are at a stage at which Lord Cullen has finished the first part of his inquiries into the tragedy at Paddington. He has been sitting with Professor Uff looking at advanced train protection system and the TPWS. He will go on to undertake the third stage of his inquiries into the general safety culture of the railway.

The investigation under way by the Health and Safety Executive will be delivered in weeks rather than months. Therefore, the results of that will be readily available to Lord Cullen.

I was asked about the need for a permanent investigation branch for the railways. That is something which will be dealt with by Lord Cullen. We shall await his judgment. If there is a requirement for a change in legislation, we stand ready to bring forward the necessary legislation in the times ahead.

I turn now to the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood. Indeed, we shall look forward to the causes of the accident becoming clearer through the interim report of the railway inspectorate. I am extremely pleased that it has been able to promise such a quick response as, indeed, it did in relation to Paddington. It had information which was of value to the travelling public and to the industry before the end of the week following the tragedy. The formal investigation by the HSE will be conducted again with all expedition and with the necessary resources required.

As to whether the condition of the track over the past nine months required some kind of response which was not forthcoming, again, I must leave it to the technical experts on the spot to give us their advice. I hope to report back to the House as quickly as possible.

A similar response must be made to the question of whether a speed limit was appropriate on that stretch of track. It is with regret that I cannot be more detailed in my response to that.

As regards what proportion of the network might be afflicted by similar problems, I believe that today Railtrack will be publishing those areas of track which may have similar characteristics to the track outside Hatfield.

Much of the trouble with the railways in recent years appears to be due to a hiatus in investment in the middle of the last decade. However, it is worth remembering that even in the days of British Rail, the number of broken rails could be at a high level—600 or 700 or more. A couple of years ago we felt that we were making significant progress, but in the past two years the number of identified broken rails has risen. As was said earlier, the reduction of 32 per cent in the past six months is particularly welcome. I know this matter has been given priority. Railtrack recently announced a £100 million investment programme dedicated to broken rails and I believe that in the future that amount will increase.

As to the structure and regulation of investment in the industry, I believe that what we have put in place with the new Transport Bill and with the strengthened powers of the rail regulator, amplified by the strategic vision of the SRA, will give us a purposefulness that has been lacking in the industry for some time.

On quality of service, of course, punctuality is important, but there is nothing more important than safety. We shall try to ensure that the investment that is made over the years ahead puts the priority of safety at the forefront of concerns.

4.2 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, perhaps I may associate noble Lords on these Benches with the words of comfort to the bereaved and to those who have been injured. Bearing in mind that metal fatigue in rails will be caused in part by the frequency and the weight of use to which they are subjected, is the Minister satisfied that the attempts to increase the number of services and the speeds at which the trains travel are acceptable for our rail services?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

My Lords, that is an important point, given the metallurgical concerns expressed over the past day. I have heard that particularly heavy rolling stock had been travelling over that line, which may have been a contributing factor, but I have also heard from another source that that has not been the case, and that the rolling stock involved was, in fact, lighter than some of the engines that have been employed. In view of the contradictory views expressed over the past couple of days, the House will understand why I am anxious to receive the report from the railway inspectorate.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that at the moment there are too many instances of bad quality track and that something urgently needs to be done so that the confidence of the travelling public can be addressed properly? Is he also aware that large capital gains have been made by those in charge of the railway system, which does not sit well with what has happened tragically in the past few days? The Minister mentioned haste in addressing the issues that have arisen due to the crash and that is to be welcomed. As far as the public is concerned, we face delays of too great a length in such matters.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

My Lords, the matter of broken rails is serious. It is not limited to the railways in the United Kingdom. In France the statistics for broken rails number in the hundreds and the concern is that there has been a rise in recent years. We believe that the £100 million investment programme that Railtrack has recently put in place has clearly been a contributing factor in reducing the number of broken rails in the last six-month period. There is a balance to be struck between the profitability of a company and its ability to borrow in the market place, the better to invest in the improvement of our railway system. As I said earlier, we want to ensure that we do not have just a stable and an effective Railtrack under proper corporate governance, but also one that is able to invest alongside the £60 billion of investment from the public and private sectors that we envisage the railways needing over the next 10 years.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I welcome the measured sentiments that have been expressed in this Chamber in response to the terrible accident at Hatfield and associate myself with them. Does the Minister agree that one further important role that the Government can perform in the terrible aftermath of such a tragedy is to reassure the travelling public about the overall relative safety of travelling by rail in comparison with travelling by road? It would be a double tragedy if large numbers of people were diverted from using the rail network to using road travel, which historically has been shown to be much more dangerous by a factor of around 100.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, puts his finger on the important issue of the relative risks involved in different modes of travel. We can state with certainty that rail is the safest form of surface travel. However, we must understand the public emotions on such matters. Although there are 3,500 deaths on our roads every year—100 times more than on our railways—the fact that people have put their lives into the hands of rail companies and railway staff and that the outcome of accidents can be potentially catastrophic lends another dimension of concern to such accidents. We have to reaffirm that, so far as the railways are concerned, safety must he the highest priority.

Lord Hardy of Wath

My Lords, as one who depends entirely on the East Coast main line, can the Minister tell the House what the position is in regard to travel from London to Yorkshire over the next few days? Over 30 years ago, when I began regular journeys on that line, I could write legibly by hand, but I cannot do so now. If I were to travel on a number of services in Europe, and certainly in France, I would be able to glide along on a smooth, permanent rail. Is it too much to hope that one day such a system will be available in the United Kingdom?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

My Lords, at present the situation is that the services from London to the North can loop round the accident site, adding about half an hour to the journey. The East Coast main line is the location of one of the major works to be targeted by the £60 billion programme of investment that will take place over the next 10 years. As I said earlier, that will be a programme of investment both from private and public sources. Understandably, in relation to the West Coast main line, one hears complaints of inconvenience from travellers, but that project, running at a cost of around £6 billion, is one of the major post-war engineering works in the United Kingdom, employing at present thousands of people. One message we must send out is that to rebuild a 150 year-old railway system cannot be done without inconvenience. We have to ensure that it is done without compromising safety.

Lord Bradshaw

My Lords, I must declare an interest in that I am a member of the Strategic Rail Authority. However, today I am speaking in a personal capacity as a former senior executive on the railways. First, I am sure that all railway employees, not just Gerald Corbett, feel a deep sense of dismay at what happened, and that dismay is shared right through to the people who drive the trains and those on the platforms.

My question is this. Does the Minister agree that there are pressures on the industry to improve punctuality, to increase the number of trains to carry the extra people who want to travel, and to gain access to the track for maintenance and repairs? Does he agree also that, under the present contractual structure, those pressures come into conflict with one another?

Perverse incentives are generated by the present contractual structure. For example, if Railtrack needs to get on the track to do extra repairs to enhance safety, it must make penalty payments for every train which is delayed for every minute. That must cause people to be less enthusiastic to disrupt the service and do the work than they would be if those incentive structures were different. Is it not time to consider whether the incentives we put in place, through regulation and contracts, always put safety first?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

My Lords, the incisiveness of the noble Lord's contribution comes as no surprise, given his deep involvement with the industry over many years. I share his concern in those areas. Some of the contracts inherited through the privatisation process are closed book, fixed price contracts which are adversarial in nature. Railtrack has been trying to develop new relationships with maintenance contractors and to develop new forms of contract. It believes that in that regard it has made progress on track quality and so forth. However, it is surely time to review the contract structure urgently. I assume that that is one of the areas which Lord Cullen will want to examine. His interest will be welcomed by Railtrack and many others in the industry.

Lord Woolmer of Leeds

My Lords, does my noble friend recognise the deep sense of loss felt in Leeds at this tragic accident on the main rail link between Leeds and London? Also, is he aware of our support for and the pleasure we feel in seeing the additional funding going into railways? However, does he recognise that three tragic accidents in three years will inevitably shake public confidence in rail travel? If we do not recognise that, we do not do the public justice.

Given the reported awareness of the fault on this route, and that the replacement rail was in fact lying alongside the track for several months, does not Railtrack have an obligation to publicise reports of defective track and the remedial action it intends to take? Does it also have an obligation not only to report those matters to the Railways Inspectorate, but also to have the Railways Inspectorate agree what the proposed action should be?

Those of us travelling on that line over those months are appalled that during that time somebody took the decision to put the disruption of rail travel before safety and did not even impose a rail travel limit. Is my noble friend aware that putting safety first, with an independent body ensuring that that happens, is now becoming urgent?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

My Lords, I accept the general thrust of what my noble friend says. I should say that since the Ladbroke Grove accident we have taken urgent measures to try to improve rail safety, including the acceleration of the new train protection systems, improved driver training and action to improve the number of SPADS which has shown the improvements mentioned earlier. We have also established a national confidential incident reporting system for the railways.

Some of the more detailed questions asked by my noble friend are best left to the investigation by the Health and Safety Executive and to Lord Cullen when he reports on the complex relationships inside what is not only a complicated, but also a huge industry. The measured way in which Lord Cullen has been advancing his inquiries to date gives us every confidence that he will come to cogent, sensible conclusions.

Lord Monson

My Lords—

Lord Roberts of Conwy

My Lords—

The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

My Lords, I think it is time for a contribution from the Cross Benches.

Lord Monson

My Lords, according to a senior Railtrack executive speaking on the radio shortly after the accident, the rails at the site of the Hatfield accident had been manufactured and laid as recently as 1995 and seemingly it is most unusual for rails to fail after no more than five years. Is it possible that defective quality steel was used in the manufacture of those rails? If so, is it likely that other rails from the same defective batch were used at numerous other points in the rail network?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

My Lords, that is an important question on a highly technical matter which, as the noble Lord will anticipate, I am not in a position to answer in detail today. It certainly appears to have been a stretch of track where the rails were not as old as might traditionally have been expected. The industry should have a methodology in place which allows it to check which batches of rail came from which suppliers at what time and it should therefore be possible to trace that back.

The Earl of Liverpool

My Lords, the Minister has said more than once to the House that the incidence of broken rails is numbered in the hundreds. Is he aware that, in a BBC report last night, it appeared that for each of the last three years for which statistics are available, the actual number of broken tracks was 950, 930 and 900, which are alarmingly high figures? Given that that is cause for concern, can the Minister tell the House the number of incidents in each of the last recordable years?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

My Lords, for perspective I should say that the number of broken rails in 1980 was 1,091; in 1986 we had 847; we then have a decline to 582 in 1990 and that climbs by 1995–96 to 755. In 1997–98 the number was 755; in 1998–99 it was 952; and in 1999–2000 it was 917.

Noble Lords will be aware from the low numbers of casualties on British Railways over the decades, which was mentioned earlier, that broken rails are usually dealt with without incident and some of the actual incidents may have occurred in freight yards. We have to he careful, therefore, that we are comparing like with like. Bearing in mind the large numbers, there is no doubt that there is serious cause for concern. It is a matter of working out not simply the numbers, but also the areas of most risk. That is what I hope the new regime will concentrate on and focus money into, putting an end to broken rails in such quantities.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his responses and the Statement. It demonstrates this Government's commitment to the railways and to safety. As he said, no transport system is 100 per cent safe and many of us fear that another accident may happen caused by vandalism, which is a growing concern. I know that my noble friend has made a great effort to remedy that.

He also mentioned that each year 3,500 people are killed on the roads. Does he agree that most are killed not by their own actions but by other people? Does he believe that a similar campaign to that now commendably taking place on the railways—that is, investigating the causes and taking action—should be undertaken in respect of roads? I believe that PACTS has produced a report showing that 1,200 deaths, about one-third of the total, are due to excessive or inappropriate speeds. Would not reducing speed limits on the roads avoid a large number of deaths commensurate with improvements in rail safety which my noble friend has outlined today?

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

Again for perspective, none of us would deny that 3,500 deaths a year is utterly unacceptable. It is one of the reasons why the Government are aiming at a 40 per cent reduction in the number of people killed and seriously injured travellers on the road over the next 10 years. That is an ambitious target but it is not unrealistic. A 40 per cent reduction has been achieved during the past 15 years in the United Kingdom.

We now have the safest roads in Europe, apart from Sweden, and the safest motorway network. It is worth keeping that success in mind while also acknowledging that 3,500 deaths are unacceptable.

Similarly, as regards the railways, we could be lulled into a false sense of security by examining the figures since the tragic accident in 1988 when 34 people died. Yet since the Clapham accident the number of fatalities in train accidents were six in 1989; none in 1990; two in 1991; two in 1992; none in 1993; three in 1994; one in 1995; and one in 1996. There were seven tragic deaths in Southall in 1997 but no fatalities in 1998. There were then the deaths at Paddington and now those at Hatfield.

We have a record of which for some years we can be proud but which shows a potential for catastrophe. That means that through the 10-year plan we must continue to invest on a scale that the railways have not seen probably for more than 100 years.