Professor Sir David Davies, the former chief scientist at the ministry of defence, is to lead the inquiry into rail safety systems following the Paddington disaster.
He is to report his findings to deputy prime minister John Prescott by the end of this month.
Sir David’s inquiry will study and identify which train protection systems are available, how much they cost and how practical and effective they are.
He will assess the rail industry’s response to the Health and Safety Executive’s findings that the number of incidents in which trains pass danger signals is increasing.
Sir David is president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and was director of research at the British Railways board from1967 to 1971.
He held the presidency of the Institution of Electrical Engineers from 1994 to 1995 and has also been vice-chancellor of the University of Loughborough.
Sir David’s assessment of rail safety systems will coincide with a public inquiry to be chaired by Lord Cullen.
Lord Cullen is a privy counsellor and a senator of the College of Justice in Scotland.
He chaired the public inquiry into the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster, which ran from 1988 to 1990.