Update: Report on British Train Crash

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LONDON (AP) -- Bad signaling and poor staff training led to a train collision that killed 31 people and damaged public confidence in the British rail network, an official report said Tuesday.

Lord Douglas Cullen, who led the inquiry into the Oct. 5, 1999 crash near London's Paddington Station, also found that passengers faced problems evacuating the train after the collision, which sent two fireballs roaring through the coaches.

In some cases, safety hammers were missing and exit doors did not easily open, the report found.

Cullen made 88 safety recommendations, including better information for passengers, improvements in emergency exits, better training for drivers, and a national system of radio communication between train drivers and traffic signal managers.

Cullen expressed confidence that his recommendations would be met, but victims of the crash said the report didn't go far enough, maintaining someone should be prosecuted.

"Nobody has apologized to us for what they did to us that day," said Tony Knox, who survived the crash.

The driver of a Thames commuter train went through a red light 2 miles west of Paddington, getting directly into the path of an incoming high-speed Great Western express. Both train drivers died in the collision at the height of morning rush hour.

The light, known as signal 109, was considered one of the 22 most dangerous train signals in the country, according to the report by government inspectors. Before the crash, there were at least two other incidents of trains passing red signals.

Railtrack, the private company responsible for maintaining the nation's 20,000 miles of track and 2,500 train stations, was accused of a "lamentable failure" and "institutional paralysis" for not fixing the difficult-to-see signal.

The report faulted Thames trains, whose driver, Michael Hodder, 31, was killed in the crash.

It found that new drivers for Thames trains were not even taught the route in and out of Paddington Station, one of London's busiest, and concluded "that the safety culture in regard to training was slack and less than adequate."

The report also criticized the training of the signal monitors, saying they were not able to react in time to stop the crash after noticing the train had passed a red light.

An earlier report by the Health and Safety Executive on the 1999 crash concluded it could have been prevented by a sophisticated safety system that automatically prevents trains from going through red lights. Immediately after the accident, the government pledged to install that warning system across the rail network by 2003.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), June 19, 2001

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