'Room for improvement' in rail safety as Grayrigg derailment anniversary marked

There is "room for improvement" in rail safety despite it being 10 years since the last passenger death in a train crash, industry bosses have warned.

One woman died and 89 other people were injured, 30 of them seriously, when a Virgin Trains service derailed at 95mph on the West Coast Main Line in Grayrigg, Cumbria, on February 23 2007.

It was Britain's last train crash involving a passenger fatality.

Ian Prosser, HM chief inspector of railways, told the Press Association: "Britain's railways are currently the safest they have ever been, but there is still room for improvement.

"It has been 10 years since there has been a train accident that was fatal to passengers or staff and last year was the first year ever in Britain without a railway worker losing their life.

"That said, as the recent tram incident at Croydon has shown, there is no room for complacency on safety."

There were 25 potentially higher risk train accidents last year, including 11 derailments, six collisions between trains and four collisions with vehicles at level crossings, according to figures from rail regulator the Office of Rail and Road.

Some 7,183 passengers were injured on the mainline railway in 2015/16, down by 3.3% on the previous year.

Around half were due to slips, trips and falls, with about a fifth occurring at the platform edge.

In 2007, the 300-tonne Pendolino train from London to Glasgow came off the tracks at Grayrigg due to a badly maintained and faulty set of points.

Eight of the nine carriages fell down an embankment, with five turning onto their sides.

Passenger Margaret Masson, 84, from Glasgow, died.

The train's driver, Iain Black, was hailed a hero after he stayed at the controls.

Despite suffering a broken neck he made a mobile phone call to his girlfriend, a manager with Virgin Trains, to stop all other trains on the line.

He has made a good recovery but still has continual pain in his neck.

"Every morning I wake up with a sore neck and when you get the pain you realise it was caused by the crash," he said.

"I think about it every day, it's hard not to."

Network Rail, the firm responsible for the upkeep of the railways, accepted it was at fault and was fined £4 million over safety failures.

The derailment came five years after the last of a spate of fatal crashes.

In October 1999, 31 people were killed in the Paddington rail disaster in west London, while four died in October 2000 at Hatfield in Hertfordshire.

Ten people were killed in the Selby crash in Yorkshire in February 2001, and the Potters Bar crash in Hertfordshire claimed seven lives in May 2002.

Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail, said: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Margaret Masson, who tragically lost her life and with all those who were injured or affected by what happened.

"Valuable lessons were learned which have contributed to the railway in Britain now being the safest major network in Europe."

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