UK rail passenger deaths before and after the 1993 privatisation.
Pundits often suggest that privatisation has increased
railway accidents because shareholders and managers have cut corners and
neglected safety to raise profits.
They could be right. Although other privatised transport industries such as airlines and the bus and coach travel industry take passenger safety seriously, maybe rail managers are different. Perhaps airlines are more safety conscious because of a different regulatory regimes or because their passengers are more demanding of safety. Perhaps bus and coach operators have good safety records despite rather than because they are largely private. Maybe ex public employees find it difficult to deal with the pressures of working in a private company? Far fetched as it may seem, disgruntled rail workers may even engage in sabotage. Unlikely I agree, but who knows? Let’s look at the record.
The railways were privatised in 1993, but it is still
surprisingly difficult to get all the figures together in one place.
In 2001 in response to a parliamentary question the minister stated “This
information can be provided only at disproportionate cost.”
for details.) Extraordinary!
Fortunately iGreens are on the case.
The table shows the publicly available figures from various sources.
The total number of passenger deaths is from the Health and Safety
Executive, which became responsible for rail safety in 1991.
They publish figures from the period 1 April to 31 March each year.
Far from rising after privatisation the figure has remained steady,
although the effect of single large accidents such as that at Ladbroke Grove
show up clearly.
However, the numbers of passengers carried by railways rose
steadily after privatisation. This was a welcome reversal of a long
decline (click here for the
iGreen take on this), but it also means that when death rates are expressed per
billion passenger miles the trend is clearly downwards after privatisation.
These figures are shown in the second column for available years.
The other columns put these figures into perspective. It is often said that rail deaths are dwarfed by road deaths and indeed they do. There are over 100 times more passenger deaths in car accidents. However so many more journeys occur by car that when the figures are expressed per passenger mile, car journeys are only around 3-6 times more dangerous than rail ones.
Jim Thornton 26 Oct 2002
For another useful link on this click here
of the worst UK rail accidents:
May 2002: Potters Bar; 7 deaths. These
will count towards the 2002/3 figures
February 2001: Great Heck; 10 deaths
October 2000: Hatfield; 4 deaths
October 1999: Ladbroke Grove, Paddington; 31 deaths
September 1997: Southall; 7 deaths
1994: Cowden in Kent; 5 deaths.
Cannon Street; 2 deaths, 240 injured.
Newton near Glasgow; 4 deaths.
1989: Purley; 5 deaths.
December 1988: Clapham; 35 deaths.
26 1986: Lockington, Yorkshire; 9 deaths.
1984: Derailment 13 deaths.
1979: Invergowrie; 5 deaths
1975: Moorgate; 43 deaths.
1975: Nuneaton; 6 deaths.
1973: Ealing; 10 deaths.
1969: Morpeth; 6 deaths.
1967: Hither Green; 49 deaths.
1957: Lewisham; 90 deaths.
12, 1952: Wealdstone; 112 deaths.
May 22, 1915, Quintinshill near Gretna Green. Over 200 deaths. The UK's worst train crash
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