THE one common thread running through the tragedies at Clapham, Southall, Paddington, Hatfield, Selby, and Potters Bar is that they were all avoidable.

While it is impossible to create an accident-proof railway network, it is surely possible to reduce the potential for accidents to the absolute minimum.

The spate of disasters in recent years clearly demonstrates that standards of safety are below acceptable standards.

More than a year on from Selby, strong evidence is emerging that measures to prevent vehicles getting on railway lines are insufficient.

And nearly two years on from Hatfield, yesterday's interim report into the Potters Bar disaster shows the susceptibility of sections of the network to derailment.

Repeatedly, we have voiced concerns that it was a flaw in the privatisation process to vest responsibility for health and safety on the network with the same organisation also responsible for generating income from the network.

That conflict of interest does not disappear with the tranfer of powers from Railtrack to a not-for-profit public authority.

We welcome, therefore, the proposal this week from Transport Secretary Alistair Darling to create a separate body to determine what maintenance and improvement works are necessary, and to ensure that the work is carried out properly.

We urge him to enact this suggestion as soon as possible to help restore the travelling public's faith in our railway system.

Jubilee advantage

HISTORY is against Tim Henman. He has played in three Wimbledon semi-finals, and has never made it to the final.

He has played Lleyton Hewitt five times, and has never beaten him once.

We prefer, however, to look at another piece of history in this year of the Golden Jubilee.

The last time a Briton won a singles title at Wimbledon was in 1977 - another jubilee year. We hope and pray history is kind this time round to Tim Henman.