Safety training criticised

Safety training given to rail staff has come under heavy criticism in the inquiry into the Paddington train crash.

An off-duty guard who rescued passengers from the wreckage claimed accident training standards had fallen since rail privatisation.

Mike Thomas, a manager with Virgin Trains, short-circuited the line to prevent further trains ploughing in to the collision, in which 31 people died, in October 1999.

Giving evidence, Thomas said he had not taken part in a simulated emergency exercise for three or four years.

He was reported as saying, “Since privatisation, I feel we have not had as much training as we should. If people coming into the industry have not had the training, they might run around like headless chickens.”

But a Virgin Trains spokeswoman told Personnel Today it was “not realistic” to expect the company to stage mock emergencies to train staff.

She said, “Virgin is a massive company and to make all its employees do mock disasters would be impossible.”

She said Thomas had received fire training, participated in an HST training course, watched a safety training video and participated in a train managers’ rules and regulations exam in the months before the inquiry. Staff who did not pass the exam were not retained, the spokeswoman said.

Following the crash Thomas collected safety clips from the guard’s compartment and placed them behind the train, which short-circuited the line to ensure signals nearby turned red.

A crash survivor condemned safety standards aboard the Great Western train involved in the crash.

First aider Andrew Cowgill of Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said he could not find first aid equipment to help other passengers.

• The Director of Public Prosecutions last week ruled out any charges of corporate manslaughter arising from the inquiry.

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