An intelligent feature in CityAM – http://www.cityam.com/forum/helicopter-tragedy-why-disasters-are-so-thankfully-rare#.UPfMmHaWffI.twitter – argues that disasters are few and far between. Indeed, yesterday’s helicopter crash was a rare event for a form of transport that is generally very safe – though there have been the odd disaster and Chelsea FC even has a stand named after Matthew Harding, a director of the club killed in a helicopter accident.
There is, though, a wider point. There is no doubt that public transport – and I included aviation – has become far safer in the past couple of decades. I remember writing a feature 20 years ago which suggested that if the accident rate in the aviation industry did not reduce, and flights continued to increase, then disasters would happen with such regularity that they would be a major deterrence to flying. In fact, the incidence of disasters has plummetted, thankfully – though, and this is a warning to Michael O’Leary, when a low cost airline experiences its first tragedy, there may well be a significant long term impact, no pun intended.
On the rails, there has, too, been a huge reduction in incidents and only one accident in the past decade, with a single fatality. This is unprecedented as even as recently as the 1980s, a year without a fatal crash was noteworth. Now we are on a run of five successive years.
I did, slightly ironically, tweet that the helicopter crash may well put paid to the hopes of those who want a third runway at Heathrow. It will draw attention to the large amount of air traffic going over the centre of London and increasing that by a third or so may well now be seen as politically unpalatable.
There will always be scope for a disaster given the high speeds involved and the fact that the unexpected can happen.Nevertheless, there has been amazing and largely unheralded progress in safety management in the transport industry – and indeed elsewhere if you think of the regular football disasters that occurred in the post war period. But as ever, we must keep our fingers crossed, as Wednesday’s crash, which could have been so much worse, demonstrated.