British railways shaken by a series of deadly clashes

Britain's fourth fatal rail accident in 3Ѕ years is another sharp blow to a once-proud network struggling to shake off fears about safety and accusations of neglect. Many services had only recently returned to normal after an accident north of London on Oct. 17 killed four people and injured 35. Passengers who deserted the railways in droves during the months of chaos and delay had begun to step back onto the trains. In yesterday’s wreck, a Land Rover and trailer apparently veered off a motorway, down on to the rails. The incident left at least 13 dead and more than 70 injured. The Land Rover and a trailer it was towing veered down an embankment onto the tracks. Then the passenger train smashed into it at 120 mph, derailed and ploughed into an oncoming freight train on another track. In the meantime, investigators blamed October's crash at Hatfield, 18 miles north of London, on a cracked rail. On Sept. 19, 1997, a passenger train from Swansea, Wales, collided with a freight train in Southall, west London, killing seven and injuring 139. Two years later, on Oct. 5, 1999, 31 people were killed and 150 injured when an express train and a commuter train collided at London's Paddington station. In both cases, the train drivers passed through danger signals. The Associated Press cites a report by the Health and Safety Executive on the 1999 crash saying the driver of the commuter train had went through a poorly positioned and hard-to-see red light. The report concluded that the crash 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.

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