Go safe - go rail

Rail continues to be the safest form of land transport. Despite a handful of high-profile accidents in recent years, rail is getting safer, and the chances of surviving a crash in a rail vehicle are far greater than in any other vehicle.

Travelling by train is 15 times safer than going by car and five times safer than going by bus or coach. You are far more likely to involved in an accident whilst walking, cycling or driving to the station than when you are on the train.

Sixteen times more person-miles are travelled by car than by train yet there are 100 times more accidents on our roads than on our railways. In terms of time spent on the journey, train travel is even safer than air travel.

Measured in fatal train accidents per billion train kms the national rail network has been getting progressively safer. In the period 1967-71 the figure was 10.2, in 1982-86 it was 5.5 and in 1997-2000 it was 1.5. This represents a fall in fatal train accidents since 1967 of 80%.

Every year 3,500 people are killed on Britain's roads and 300,000 people are injured. There was a 25% increase in car occupant fatalities in greater London in the first nine months of 2000 compared to the same period in 1999. Lorries make up 7% of road traffic yet they cause over 20% of road fatalities.

Between a third and a half of HGVs aged between 5 and 12 years old fail their annual safety check. On dual and single carriageway 'A' roads it is more common for HGVs to break the speed limit than comply, and a third of vehicles stopped in roadside checks are overloaded.

Research by the EC Group of Twelve Railways claimed that rail could take back 20% share of road freight if existing road haulage regulations were enforced. In 1996 there were 4,743 accidents related to road maintenance alone.

Railfuture believes proper enforcement of existing road traffic laws - on speed, drivers' hours, vehicle maintenance and overloading for example - would be a good start. Speed cameras are supported by sensible, law-abiding motorists.

The majority of fatalities on the railways are, sadly, a result of trespass and suicides - not lack of train safety. Currently the primary cause of rail incidents, 55%, is vandalism - obstructions on the track and missiles aimed at trains. You are far more likely to injure yourself walking up and down steps at the station (or anywhere else) than while you are on the train.

People falling out of 'slam door' trains - which have doors you have to slam shut yourself rather than automatic closing doors - used to be the major cause of injuries on the railways. The remaining slam door trains (Mark 3 stock) now have locks which prevent doors being opened when not in a station.