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Reverend Richard Pyke warns against safety cuts


Hatfield priest warns over cuts

The priest who presided over a service to mark the 10th anniversary of the Hatfield rail crash has warned against any funding cuts that could jeopardise safety.

Just days before the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) takes place, the Reverend Richard Pyke warned against measures that could affect safety in the future.

Four passengers were killed when an express train derailed on October 17 2000. They were remembered in a service at St Etheldreda's Church in the Hertfordshire town and Mr Pyke, who performed the service, said afterwards: "As a salutary warning to anyone in authority at this particular time, in no way should future safety be jeopardised."

Following the service, survivors and families of those who died visited the scene of the accident near Hatfield station for another service. This included a period of silence at the exact moment of the crash - 12.23pm.

Mr Pyke explained: "It was quite poignant as a train went through at the very moment. The driver obviously knew we would be there and the train gave a signal. Today was a day to speak about what had happened and to pray that it doesn't happen again."

The family of one of those killed - pilot Steve Arthur, 46, a father-of-two from Pease Pottage, West Sussex - attended the services. Also in attendance were railway staff, the Mayor of Hatfield Linda Clark, and the Archdeacon of Hertford, the Venerable Trevor Jones.

The crash involved a Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) express train from London to Leeds. The train, travelling at more than 100mph, derailed after passing over a section of rail which then fractured. Twelve GNER staff and 170 passengers were on the Intercity 225 service. As well as the deaths, there were 70 injuries - four of them serious.

A phenomenon known as gauge corner cracking, or rolling contact fatigue, was blamed for the crash.

A Health and Safety Executive inquiry report said the train had passed over a section of track which was in a poor condition and which should have either have been replaced or a temporary speed restriction should have been brought in.

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said: "The impact of the tragedy at Hatfield still resonates today and my thoughts are with the friends and relatives of those killed and injured as they mark the 10th anniversary. The rail industry is working hard to ensure that disasters like this don't happen again. Rail travel has never been safer than it is today, and the memories of those who lost their lives will see us continue to prioritise the safety of passengers as we expand and improve our network in the future."

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