Don Foster MP*


Bath MP, Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat Shadow DTLR Secretary has today launched a campaign for a safety culture throughout the railway industry.

Main ImageDon Foster is pressing the Government to meet the safety recommendations of the report on the Southall rail crash and on the first part of the Ladbroke Grove report. Parliamentary Questions tabled today will reveal what progress has been made so far.

Don Foster MP said:

“All Stephen Byers’ energies must now be directed towards delivering a safe, reliable and affordable railway. I’ve made that quite clear in the 118 questions I’ve tabled for the Minister to answer!

“Safety must be the paramount concern for everybody throughout the industry. News that senior management at Railtrack have reduced the number of safety walk-abouts is cause for serious concern. There is no reason for Railway Administration to have stopped progress.

“We understand that over half of the safety recommendations which emerged from the Southall accident last year have not been implemented. The Government cannot afford to let these important measures from the Health and Safety Executive to wither on the vine.

“Recommendations in Part One of the Ladbroke Grove must also be implemented as soon as possible.

“It is always passengers who pay for a lack of will on rail safety.”


Notes to Editors:

Don Foster yesterday tabled 118 written parliamentary questions on Railtrack.

Liberal Democrats call on Stephen Byers to take action over Rail Safety.

• The effective delivery of a safe railway should be the number one concern…
News at the weekend revealed that senior management at Railtrack have drastically reduced the number of safety walkabouts that are taking place. This should be a major concern and, unlike the Tories - whose concerns seem to be focused on ‘who said what to whom when’ and ‘protecting the shareholder’ - the Liberal Democrats are committed to the delivery of a safe, reliable and affordable railway and we are determined to press the Government on ensuring safety within the rail industry is maintained and improved.

• Stephen Byers needs to take a firm grip to ensure that safety standards, and levels of track and signal maintenance levels are not falling …
There is already evidence that since railway administration began the number of delays are increasing, and the quality and levels of maintenance have declined. We are determined to find out if this is the true, and to find out what steps Stephen Byers plans to take to reverse these trends whilst the railway infrastructure is being run by Railway Administration.

The Tories, in their opposition day debate on Monday made the assertion that Byers should accept criminal liability for safety on the railways - currently resting with the Railtrack board. In the debate John Redwood (Hansard 3rd December 2001: Column 59) stated: “I wrote a letter [to the Secretary of State] asking him to set out the position on safety. I think the Government have a clear moral and political obligation to accept ultimate responsibility, now that they have taken the law into their own hands and persuaded the court to put the railways into administration.”

However, as Cullen’s report has showed quite clearly, maintaining safety and developing a safety culture within the railways does not lie at the door of any one individual, but needs to be paramount for everyone involved in the industry. If senior management cannot be shown to do this they should be removed from post. Likewise, Stephen Byers and his department must accept responsibilities for safety to which they must adhere. We believe that these should be clearly set out, and should include reference to the monitoring of safety and the implementation of any recommendations.

• Government and Stephen Byers must not have, and must not “take its eye off the ball” on Railway Safety…
We intend to push the Government hard on this issue and ensure that recent recommendations on rail safety have been, and are being implemented. In particular, Railway Administration should not be proven to have stopped implementation, and should not be shown to be stopping further progress. Administration may take over a year and cannot act as a barrier to improvements in safety.

• The key areas in which we have begun to press the Government...
Questions tabled by Don Foster, appearing on the order paper on Tuesday 4th December 2001, focus on the following areas:

1. The Health and Safety Commission’s Action Plan to implement the recommendations from the Health and Safety Executive's Southall Rail Accident Inquiry Report from Professor Uff

This was published on 22nd May 2000, all of the responses from which had to be implemented by either August 2000, the end of 2000, or February 2001. The first progress report was published in September 2000, the last in February 2001, but we have not heard anything since. A 6-month report would have been due in September 2001. Why not? We would like to know, plus - since we did not get an update - we would like to know what progress has been made on each of the recommendations since February 2001 (a time at which over half of the recommendations had still not been implemented, and timescales were slipping). We have tabled parliamentary questions to try and find out. We are in agreement with all of the recommendations (concerning engineering, signals, safety equipment, and the use of ATP on the Great Western line).

2. Lord Cullen’s Recommendations within Part I of the Ladbroke Grove Rail Inquiry Report published by the Health and Safety Commission

On 19th June 2001 Lord Cullen published Part 1 of his recommendations. There were a total of 89, and Stephen Byers at the time said that he had asked the Health and Safety Commission to ensure that the recommendations are acted upon and reported back upon within six months ( 19/06/01)

In the light of the confusion of railway administration we would like to know what progress and monitoring there has been on all 89 of these recommendations, and we have tabled questions to find out what progress has been made on each and every one of these recommendations - all of which we are in agreement with (concerning engineering, design and training issues mainly).

• How we will continue to push the Government on these issues in the coming month

Recommendations have also been made in a couple of other major reports. We intend to ask questions on these over the next months to highlight our own concerns over what improvements should be made within (i) the management and structure of the industry in relation to safety; and (ii) in relation to train protection systems. These are:

(i) The joint Uff/Cullen report on Train Protection - published March 2001 by the Health and Safety Commission.
(ii) Lord Cullen’s Part II of the Ladbroke Grove rail inquiry published by the Health and Safety Commission with recommendations on the management of safety throughout the industry as a whole - published September 20th 2001.

This article published: 18/09/2023

Published by Bath Liberal Democrats, 31 James St West, Bath, BA1 2BT. Printed and hosted by JPC Infonet, 2 St Georges Works, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8AA. Your Privacy._blank


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