BBC TV "Collision Course"

On 7th January 2003, the BBC transmitted the first in a three programme series called "Collision Course"

This programme looked in depth at the Southall crash of 19th September 1997 (which occurred on the same rail line as the Paddington crash) and how it affected those caught up in it.

Many PSG members saw the programme. Some comments from them are shown on this page.

A very informative program. I thought the way they used survivors stories was quite appropriate.

A very factual program focusing on the event and causes leading up to it. The hour passed very quickly.

What the survivors featured in the programme said I can totally relate to.

At times, the reconstruction of the crash made my heart race.

I found it a very moving programme.

It was fascinating to me as I have always imagined myself outside the crash looking at it, dispassionately. This program did exactly that for me, but for the wrong crash.

The program really did bring home the randomness of events like ours but I think it missed major facts. There was a reasonable amount about the design of the HST Mark 3 coaches (I still want to buy the design team a drink) but there was nothing at all about ATP or driver attention.

Decisions about where you sit, what kind of glass is in the windows etc. are only made relevant because there is no mechanism to prevent such a collision.

It was very graphic in showing what it is like to be in a catastrophe, but at the same time point out that our catastrophe only happened because of:
No ATP or equivalent
Poor signal siting
Lack of Railtrack response to criticism of signal siting
Poor Driver training
Poor track layout
Inadequate response to the SPAD
And that there would not really be any need for passengers to consider which seat they sat in if any one of these had been acted on.

There was an interesting comparison with road travel at the end: the unspoken difference was that on a train we relinquish control to someone else.

I think train travel should not be a lottery about where you sit etc. In this case (Southall) I do not believe that First Great Western should have allowed that train to leave the depot knowing that the ATP was not functioning (it was installed).

I think that drivers should not be allowed to cancel warning signals (the driver cancelled two such signals before the crash). The whole system of warning bells and buzzers is so archaic.

I am afraid that I could only watch about 30 seconds and had to then run away.

I thought it was an impressive piece of television.

I thought they illustrated the dilemmas of engineering design and safety management very effectively (though I would quibble a little with the detail). I was heartened that they gave the designers of the carriages the credit that they deserved.

The "bullet time" approach to dissecting the crash was very impressive - particularly the relationship with the movement of ordinary people. I found this very profound and was more or less the first time I've been able to put across to my partner what it was actually "like" (I didn't get much sleep last night as a result though).

I thought the "dice rolling" of where you happened to sit on the train was rather melodramatic and not really in keeping with the "analytical" flavour of the rest of the programme. However, a straw pole in the office today suggests that the general public is enthralled by such random chances so I guess the BBC knows its audience.

I think that the real "dice rolling" with our lives was performed by the drivers / signalling / management / protection systems before the crash occurred.

Overall I think the programme was a sensitive treatment of the subject and a positive contribution to awareness

I sat watching parts of the programme with tears rolling down my cheeks, but for the first time since our crash three years ago I don't feel any on-going effect. Some progress!

A very well put together programme I thought; graphics very impressive.

Not sure I would have enjoyed seeing "our" crash, with accompanying fire, in such detail.

From my position as a trauma psychologist, I was also impressed that they found such good examples of the 3 typical types of emotional/behavioural response: a bereaved person; a physically injured passenger and a non-physically (seriously) injured passenger. As we know within PSG, it is frequently those who do not have a serious physical injury who suffer the more enduring mental trauma.

Yes, the programme could have dwelt on why the crash happened in the first place - SPAD - but that was not its aim.