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Vain bid to avert disaster.

Byline: ED JAMES

A POLICE officer tried in vain to avert the Berkshire train crash in which six people died, it was revealed last night.

The off-duty officer had seen a saloon car on the crossing and then watched as the barriers closed with the vehicle still there.

The Thames Valley officer went to the emergency phone at the crossing to summon help.

But the London to Plymouth First Great Western express train, which had left London around 5. 30pm, struck the car before he could get through.

The car driver -- a man -- was one of six people killed in Saturday night's accident at the automatic half barrier outside the village of Ufton Nervet near Reading.

Also killed were the train driver and four passengers, while 150 of the 300 passengers were hurt, with 15 people remaining in hospital last night.

As rail unions and safety experts called for a review of level crossing policy, transport secretary Alastair Darling promised a full investigation into the tragedy. There were still two bodies at the scene of the incident last night. The bodies of two other victims were earlier removed from the scene.

Passengers told how they used mobile phones and novelty glows ticks as impromptu torches to guide them to safety after the collision.

Royal Berkshire hospital said they had treated 61 patients on Saturday night.

Fifteen were still being treated. Four were ``serious but stable'' and one remained in a life-threatening condition.

Last night, cranes were being installed at the scene to lift the wreckage, but it was thought that this operation would not take place until this morning.

Network Rail said the lines could be shut for as long as 10 days.

According to statistics from Rail magazine, there were 18 fatalities at level crossings last year, including five occupants of cars.

CAPTION(S):

The wreck of the train, yesterday, at the Berkshire disaster scene
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 8, 2004
Words:316
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