scotland (4K)
The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

View From the Signal Box

Between duties I have been reading "British Railway Disasters", published by Ian Allan, which should be prescribed reading for all people associated with the running of our railways.

Time and time again the chairmen to the Inquiries were stressing the need for extra training and extra safety facilities to overcome our human ability to make mistakes.

By now we should have learnt and applied so much that accidents would be extremely rare and unlikely to cause the loss of life. We are never going to eliminate mechanical failures which could lead to collisions. With the amount of knowledge that we have of automatic systems and the computing power at our disposal we should be able to reduce human error.

What bothers me is that cost-cutting exercises appear to be forcing design changes to the track that are tantamount to increasing risks. For example, by eliminating crossovers trains are forced to use lengths of track in the 'wrong' direction, by eliminating traps to derail errant wagons/trains movements are allowed that create problems. As for the use of computers that have been programmed to 'think' ahead of the current train movement and set the points for a train movement at some time in the future is using technology for the sake of it and does not allow for the unexpected as occurred at Ladbroke Grove.

Listening to the local radio I hear warnings to motorists telling them to postpone their journey due to gridlocked roads from Alness to Conon Bridge caused by a head-on collision between a car and a lorry. Surely, this is what our efforts are about- get the commuters out of their cars and the freight onto rail and then at least two families will have had a happier Christmas.

May you have every thing you wish for in the New Year.