THE REPORT of the Joint Inquiry into Train Protection Systems by Lord Cullen and Professor Uff, published on March 29, calls on the British government to introduce regulations requiring all routes on which trains exceed 160 km/h to be fitted with full automatic train protection by 2008.

They say that the European Train Control System must be adopted as the future standard, with Level 1 or 2 installed until Level 3 becomes available. Railtrack is already committed to installing ETCS Level 2 between London and Crewe by 2005, and Level 1 on the West Coast main line north of Crewe. The report calls for the East Coast Main Line to be fitted by 2006.

The report says the current programme to fit the Train Protection & Warning System to all trains, and to signals protecting conflicting movements, by December 31 2003 should continue, even though it is not compatible with ETCS. TPWS will stop trains passing a signal within the 190m overlap if the speed does not exceed 80 to 120 km/h, depending on the braking performance of the train.

Once this is complete, routes with maximum speeds in the 120 to 160 km/h range must be risk-assessed ’to establish the order in which ETCS should be fitted’. Routes with speeds in the 100 to 120 km/h range must be assessed to determine ’whether ETCS is justified’.

Trains not fitted with ETCS will be barred from ETCS-fitted routes from 2010 unless TPWS provides ’equivalent protection’.

Cullen and Uff explicitly reject the concept of assessing safety expenditure in terms of cost per life saved. There are no reliable costings for ETCS, but available data suggests that the cost per life saved will be in excess of £100m, about a hundred times more that the nominal figure used when assessing rail and road safety investment.

Ministers have been warned by Railtrack that carrying out the programme to install ETCS to this timescale would seriously disrupt train services.