THE BOSS of the Government's rail watchdog warned on Tuesday that an upward trend in railway deaths was 'a serious concern' Allan Sefton, director of rail safety at HM Railway Inspectorate, highlighted the rise in railway employee fatalities at the launch of the Health and Safety Executive's annual report into the network.
Mr Sefton said this year's figures, which reached a nine-year high, had been skewed by February's Tebay tragedy when a runaway flatbed trailer killed four Carillion railway workers.
Of the nine rail employee deaths, six were track workers. A spokeswoman said: 'Without the February tragedy we would have been seeing quite an encouraging trend.'
Mr Sefton added that he felt 'optimistic' about rail safety as a whole and paid tribute to 'the industry's huge efforts to implement Network Rail's risk minimisation initiative' He also lauded a massive fall in enforcement notices issued by the HSE from 103 to 56, a drop he attributed to improved performance and closer cooperation between inspectors and industry.
Mr Sefton also said he was pleased that the completion of London Underground's move to Public Private Partnerships, which was fiercely opposed by London Mayor Ken Livingstone because of concerns over the impact on safety, had not resulted in any increase in accidents.
He said: 'There is no sign of any upward blip in fatalities on the London Underground.'