Gretna disaster

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In response to Dr Cameron (Letters, 27 May), I do not view the responsibility for the two incidents at Kintyre and Quintinshill in the same way: the Chinook disaster was likely due to failure to provide available technology to assist the unfortunate RAF pilots.

The signalmen at Quintinshill had the current technology and rules at their full disposal. Their failure to use them – allied to a casual and careless attitude immediately before – was the prime cause of the horrendous disaster.

Dr Cameron says the signalmen made a “mistake”: they did not make one mistake but a series of serious operating rule breaches and mistakes that people in their role should absolutely not have done.

It is also incorrect to say that the inquiry did not look at why the signalmen acted as they did. Colonel Druitt, the accident inspector, found that it was due to their inexcusable carelessness and inattention to duty.

Dr Cameron makes much of the late running of the overnight expresses: for whatever reason, this was a very normal occurrence and should not have prevented the safe passage of all trains.

As for the gas-lit coaches, these were very common at that time and used for journeys of all lengths. The troop train coaches did not belong to the Caledonian, they were Great Central stock.

As for them being wooden, such coaches were in widespread, mainline use into the 1950s.

I acknowledge my error about the bank holiday but contend that this had no bearing on the disaster. I believe that the signalmen were rightly imprisoned and were fortunate that it was not for longer than the minimal time they served.

David K Allan

Haddington

East Lothian

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