HC Deb 29 November 1995 vol 267 cc782-3W
Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what advice he has received from the Health and Safety Commission and Railtrack on train protection strategy; and if he will make a statement. [3607]

Sir George Young

The Health and Safety Commission has considered Railtrack's strategy for reducing the incidence of signals passed at danger, buffer stop collisions and overspeeding. Historically, such risks have accounted for less than one third of all casualties in collisions and derailments, and about 3 per cent. of total casualties on the railway, excluding trespassers and suicides.

The Health and Safety Executive is pursuing, as a matter of priority, discussions with Railtrack and British Rail, and others as required, about action to develop and implement the wide range of measures to which they are committed in the train protection strategy. Objectives for reducing the risks in question will again be included in the annual railway group safety plan.

Railtrack and BR are pursuing five initiatives to reduce the incidence of signals passed at danger.

First, nine tenders were received by Railtrack for the development and pilot installation of a new train protection and warning system, and tender evaluation is proceeding to plan. This system is potentially capable of reducing risks arising from signals passed at danger, overspeeding and buffer stop collisions. The TPWS would enhance the existing automatic warning system by adding functions which would, if necessary, apply the brakes automatically on the approach to, or at, certain signals, and which could not be overridden by the driver. Trials of the TPWS will take place in 1996, and the aim is to start wider installation in 1997. The pilot trials and initial operational use will demonstrate the extent to which it is practicable to install the TPWS.

Secondly, the current trial of a driver reminder appliance, to reduce the risk of starting against a red signal, is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Subject to the outcome of the trial, the intention is to assess the fitting of the device to all traction units operating on Railtrack's infrastructure, with a target for complete installation by the end of 1997.

Thirdly, the existing automatic train protection installations on the Great Western and Chiltern lines should be brought into full service next year. Meanwhile, those passenger trains with ATP fitted are being run with a supervisor in support of the driver.

Fourthly, measures to improve braking performance and driver and systems performance continue. The pilot trials of an emergency sanding device to improve rail adhesion are encouraging.

Finally, and in the longer term, the reduction of risk arising from signals passed at danger and overspeeding is expected to come from a new primary control system consisting of radio-based cab signalling. Railtrack has invited tenders for a development contract for such a system as part of the project to modernise the west coast main line.

Copies of the full advice from the HSC and Railtrack, and my response, have been placed in the Library of the House.

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