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The BBC's Jon Brain
"The rail companies know that they face an uphill battle to restore public confidence"
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The BBC's Simon Montague
"Once again public confidence has been shaken"
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Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 10:57 GMT
Railtrack chief offers to resign

Hatfield crash
Experts begin to search the scene of the crash

Railtrack's chief executive has tendered his resignation in the wake of the Hertfordshire train crash.

The Railtrack board is to meet on Wednesday evening to consider whether to accept Gerald Corbett's resignation.

Mr Corbett, who bore the brunt of much of the criticism in the wake of the Paddington disaster, said he was "personally distraught" that another rail tragedy had occurred.

It follows the derailing of a train in Hertfordshire on Tuesday which killed four people.

Accident investigators scouring the scene of the accident say a preliminary search has uncovered a smashed piece of track.

Railtrack chief executive Gerald Corbett
Gerald Corbett: "Personally distraught"
Railtrack imposed speed restrictions on trains travelling along any high-speed bends, like that at the Hatfield crash site, as the search for clues began at 0800 BST on Wednesday.

The GNER service from Kings Cross to Leeds was travelling at almost 115 miles an hour - the approved speed for that stretch of track - when the crash happened at 1225 BST on Tuesday.

Nicholas Pollard, Railtrack regional director for the London North Eastern, said experts could not yet be certain if the damaged piece of rail track happened before the accident or as a result of the crash.

Injured leave hospital

"A rail is smashed up there. What we have got to understand is why that has happened and how it has happened," he said.

"We have no indication yet of whether it happened before or after."

He said he was aware that Railtrack could come under heavy fire if the crash was found to be caused by a fault with a rail.

We have an immense amount to do to address the causes of both small accidents and cataclysmic accidents

Vernon Hince, RMT union
Work was carried out by floodlight overnight to remove the bodies of the four people who died.

Seven of the 35 people injured in the crash spent a "comfortable" night at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welywn Garden City.

Three people are expected to be released later, while four more seriously injured patients could be fit to leave in a few days' time.

Search for cause

Transport minister Lord Macdonald told GMTV on Wednesday that he was looking for an answer to what caused the Hatfield train crash within hours or days rather than weeks.

Investigators are being joined by officers from the British Transport Police and Hertfordshire Police for a search which they say will take several days.

Experts and technicians from the Railway Inspectorate and the Health and Safety Inspectorate will carry out more detailed inspections once the overturned carriage is lifted into an upright position

A Hertfordshire Police spokeswoman said the four people who died were four men who were believed to have been in the buffet car.

Initial fears of a terrorist attack have been dismissed, after officers from Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch who searched the scene ruled out the possibility of an explosion.

Fear over safety

The investigation is now due to focus on three possible causes - vandalism of the track, a broken rail or a faulty wheel or axle.

Vernon Hince, of the RMT union, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there had been widespread concern that the privatised rail companies were not observing safety procedures.

Police say no-one else is trapped
Four people died in the crash
George Muir, director general of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said he hoped the cause of the crash could be found as soon as possible so that it could be corrected.

"We have an immense amount to do to address the causes of both small accidents and cataclysmic accidents and these must move fast," he said.

"We are determined that the programmes leading to a safe railway will be pushed fast and vigorously and with the capital needed."

GNER chief executive Christopher Garnett said railways were still "incredibly safe although I do accept that what happened yesterday has shaken people's confidence".

Trainee driver

The possibility of driver error seems to have been ruled out after police interviewed and bloodtested the man at the wheel in Tuesday's crash. He escaped without injury.

Mr Garnett, confirmed that a trainee driver was also in the cab.

There was no other train involved and GNER officials said the track and rolling stock were inspected frequently.

Carriage in bushes
Two carriages toppled onto their sides
Seven of the 11 carriages left the tracks. The buffet car and one other carriage fell onto their sides.

Most of the 35 casualties were treated for bumps and fractures before being allowed home.

One has undergone surgery and three others have been treated for injuries including a fractured spine, head injuries and a collapsed lung.

Trains services to and from King's Cross are subject to delays. All trains are bypassing the crash scene adding 30 minutes to intercity journeys, but less on shorter routes.

The latest Railtrack speed restrictions mean that high speed trains will be travelling at two-thirds of their normal limit on certain stretches of track.