The Mark 1 slam door carriages on Britain’s railways are a national disgrace. Now between 40 and 50 years old, they should have been replaced years ago. Their safety shortcomings have been known for years and contributed to the injury toll in the Clapham rail disaster and the Cannon Street station accident.
Better train designs with crush zones and mechanisms to stop carriages riding up over each other in an accident have long been available. So the Government’s demand that they must be improved or withdrawn by 2004 comes not a moment too soon.
But there’s a snag. Experts believe the UK railway industry may no longer be big enough to supply replacement trains.
This should not really be a surprise. Four years ago, ABB Transportation (now Adtranz) closed York Carriage Works after British Rail failed to take up a follow-on order of Networker trains to replace Mark 1 carriages. In fact British Rail ordered no rolling stock for over a year prior to privatisation, threatening the UK rail industry’s survival. If it is now unable to supply replacements for what one expert likens to cattle trucks, that will be a wholly predictable – and predicted – result of the privatisation process.