The serenity of British life was brought a stunning standstill in the wee hours of’Ash Wednesday’ October 6, when two commuter trains collided at London Paddington and exploded into a bonfire – killing nearly 50 people, according to Police sources.
The gory story is a perfect script for a horror film. Call it the runaway train! Bur this time around it was truer-than-fiction. People’s fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and sons were actually incinerated in an inferno, without a chance to say good-bye!
Although several accusing fingers are being pointed at what might have been or should have been, how and why, such a calamity of catastrophic magnitude could take a developed nation like Britain unawares is still subject of debate. At present, only forty bodies have been recovered from the wreckage whereas over a hundred are still reported missing.
Reading a quiet suburb was most disturbed. As the starting point from one of the tragic trains, the community is still coming to terms with the ever increasing number of death toll in its midst. To some extent the accident is being blamed on the incompetence of a novice driver who jumped a red signal. Others frown at the privatisation policy of the government, which they allege allowed for complacency on the part of private commuter companies. For instance one company was believed to throw over board the idea of having high level red signals for train drivers.
British taxpayers too are still flabbergasted and askance that transport officials and government establishment have failed in their duty to provide adequate security and protection for train passengers. The butt of the argument rests on the platform that the same of £1 billion would have more than adequate to provide automatic braking system in all trains in the country and, in turn prevent this sort of accident that claims so many Jives.
At present, men and women of the police and the medical services are currently facing the uphill task and trauma of sifting human remains from the charred leftover of the carnage. In fact an overwhelmed police officer collapsed in shock at the scene and had to be sent home to recover. Forensic experts and firemen are now swimming against the tide using DNA, dental records and other personal effects to identify the victims of the disaster.
No expression aptly spells out the untold hardship that this horrific incident must have left in the minds of the bereaved families other than a telling postcard placed by an innocent child at the scene for a father that she may never have to see again. It read: ‘Daddy, come home. I love you, Claire. Some mobile phones belonging to the victims still kept ringing without answer, three days after.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Blair, and his deputy, John Prescot who heads the Transport Department, have both responded to the urgent national call, by setting up in earnest investigation panels to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Ladbroke Grove accident. Besides, a pledge has gone to the public that Automatic Train Protection. ATP, a system designed to stop any train that jumps red light will be fitted on all trains at all costs.
Churches and counselling centres are also busy helping a gutted nation to recover itself from the stunning sorrow that drove everyone into silence. In the past decade, two similar disasters that claimed many lives occurred in Clapham and Southhall respectively.
Her Majesty the Queen has also sent messages of condolence to all affected families, especially the people of Reading, where most of the dead and injured boarded the ill-fated, Inter City train that had a head-on collision, with a Thameslink service train.