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'Three dead' in train crash
May 10, 2002 6:57 AM   Subscribe

'Three dead' in train crash The day after our beloved Transport Secretary Stephen Byers apparently 'saved his job', the British rail system experiences another fatal accident. That's around 70 people killed on British railways in the last three years according to this chronology.
posted by jonpollard (13 comments total)

 
Note - the 'beloved' was ironic. Our system seems to be getting worse, not better, and while I certainly don't want to see the lives of those who've died used for political opportunism, I can't help wondering how the government can continue blithely to act as if all's well with the transport world.
posted by jonpollard at 7:00 AM on May 10, 2002


I think we should wait until we know what caused it before we judge. Apparently it's five dead now. This is the line I use to go home to Cambridge.
posted by Summer at 7:26 AM on May 10, 2002


One problem is that many people high up in Government, and many people with influence in British society, as well as many ordinary folk who should care about public transport, all drive or are driven in cars. GET OUT OF YOUR CARS and ONTO THE STREETS. Our lack of protest over public transport is what helps maintain the status quo.
posted by skylar at 7:36 AM on May 10, 2002


I suspect it's this type of news that puts people off rail travel and into cars/motorcycles where, according to this ROSPA report, over 2400 people died in road traffic accidents in the UK in the year 2000 alone.
posted by chrimble at 8:18 AM on May 10, 2002


Sumner - I quite agree that the cause needs to be analysed, so apologies if that wasn't clear, but the point I was trying to make is that the overall state of UK transport is not getting better, and unfortunately, we seem to have someone in charge who's proving less and less effectual all the time.

And, yes, chrimble, the continuing shift to the roads (which are ill-equipped for yet more traffic) because of people's fears of unsafe public transport would only further the visious circle that the whole transport system has got into.

And oh look! Here comes Public Private Partnership for the Tube....
posted by jonpollard at 8:21 AM on May 10, 2002


Summer, not Sumner - sorry - late Friday afternoon typing....
posted by jonpollard at 8:25 AM on May 10, 2002


And, yes, chrimble, the continuing shift to the roads (which are ill-equipped for yet more traffic) because of people's fears of unsafe public transport would only further the visious circle that the whole transport system has got into.

I saw an interesting article on this very topic in the Economist. Unfortunately, I don't have an Economist login, and I can't find the article elsewhere on the net.

The gist of the article was this:

The railway 'crisis' that has so many wringing their hands in Britain is really no crisis at all. 70 dead in three years, while tragic, is actually amazingly low, given the number of annual railway passenger miles travelled in Britain.

There have been several proposals on improvements that would increase safety, but the cost of implementing those improvements is prohibitive - (i.e. some millions of pounds would have to be spent in order to save only a few lives per year).

That sounds coldhearted, but the logic is undeniable. If it costs, for instance, 1 billion pounds per year to run the railways at their current safety levels, but 10 billion to guarantee that 10 fewer people die per year and 100 billion to guarantee no deaths, someone has to make a decision just how much to spend - in other words, someone has to come up with an economic value of each life.

Furthermore, the shift to roads brought about by the shrillness of media reporting, and the emotional, unthinking reaction to these tragedies will or already is actually causing more taffic fatalities than the perceived worsening condition of the railways in Britain (according to the article).
posted by syzygy at 8:26 AM on May 10, 2002


The railway 'crisis' that has so many wringing their hands in Britain is really no crisis at all. 70 dead in three years, while tragic, is actually amazingly low, given the number of annual railway passenger miles travelled in Britain.
How many people were killed per year on average when it was in public hands?
posted by talos at 8:33 AM on May 10, 2002


I have to say, even though this is the train I've got hundreds of times in the past, this wouldn't put me off getting it again. The roads are lethal and I dread riding in cars. I can't even drive and I'm unlikely to ever learn.

From what I can see from Sky News, it looks like it was either a faulty rail or the points were set wrong. Sky News is so ghouslish whenever there's an accident. 'Death has returned to British railways'. The reporters keep asking of details of injuries. 'So what happened? Was anyone beheaded?'. Oh shut up.
posted by Summer at 8:52 AM on May 10, 2002


I thought that the web form on the bbc news page originally containing the article was in particularly good taste:

"Were you an eye witness? Did you see what happened? Fill in the form below and tell us your story"

(it's been removed now, for some reason)
posted by chrimble at 9:12 AM on May 10, 2002


Here's a couple of relevant quotes from the Economist article (the Economist has been banging on about this for years ... it's one of their pet subjects - 'spending on rail safety kills')

"Rail is a relatively safe form of travel. Since 1967 there have been 77 fatal rail crashes in which 308 people lost their lives. On average more people die every day in road accidents than are killed in rail crashes in a year.

Despite popular myths about the effects of privatisation, rail travel is getting safer. Research by Andrew Evans, professor of transport safety at University College, London, shows that fatal train accidents per billion train-kilometres have consistently declined from 11 a year in 1967 to three a year in 2000. "


So. talos, it seems that the railways killed more under public ownership. It never seems like that the day after a crash of course.
posted by grahamwell at 9:38 AM on May 10, 2002


I've just driven 200 miles in the UK...and listened to a talk station to hear this unfold...one of the most sickening things was hearing Bob Crowe (Transport Union Chief) -= on the radio only minutes after the tragedy, blaming the government for its poor record on transport spending...he may be right, but - MINUTES after the event....that just seems so wrong...

For the record - it was TALKSPORT at about 1505 this afternoon...hosted by Richard Kaufman and Mike Parry...
posted by mattr at 10:02 AM on May 10, 2002


The transport union was also going on about how there was no guard in the train, again minutes after the accident. As if that would have made a difference.
posted by Summer at 12:22 PM on May 10, 2002


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