Railtrack confirmed that 11 surface stations, including Victoria, Waterloo, King’s Cross, London Bridge and Cannon Street, do not hold fire safety certificates. More than 1 million passengers use these stations every day.
Railtrack denied that the stations were hazardous, saying that interim safety measures approved by the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority had been in place. It said that all the stations would receive certificates in six to eight weeks.
But one fire consultant, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was horrified when he carried out an audit at one terminus in 1993, before British Rail relinquished ownership. He said he did not know whether Railtrack had since remedied the inadequacies.
Responsibility for approving fire safety measures in stations was removed from HM Railways Inspectorate in 1990 and handed to the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority. This meant that certification was required under the Fire Precautions Act 1971.
Railtrack said that since it was awarded the leasehold for the 11 stations in 1994 it had carried out £30m of fire improvements in a five-year programme, with a view to obtaining fire safety certificates.
Railtrack spokesman Kevin Groves said: “The most difficult issue has been fitting fire alarms. Gaining access within tenanted premises, over live rails and beneath overhead electricity lines to lay thousands of metres of cable has been a challenge. At Victoria Station, there were 19 separate fire alarm systems which we had to integrate into one. There were snagging problems, but work has now been completed.
“A couple of weeks ago, we had written notification from the fire authority that all work needed for fire safety had been completed. It is now a paper exercise to issue certificates to all tenants within the stations.”
The fire authority’s inquiry into station safety is confidential so the public has no way of checking claims that are made. John Cartledge, assistant director of the London Regional Passengers Committee, said: “The confidentiality requirement comes as a surprise to me. If there has been non-compliance with the regulations, the reasons ought to be made known.”