The Aberfan disaster, which killed 116 children and 28 adults, did lead to tighter controls over colliery tips. But relatives of the victims had to fight for three decades to force the National Coal Board and the Treasury to accept full financial responsibility. But have inquiries into more recent civil disasters brought about meaningful change?



It took just 90 seconds for The Herald of Free Enterprise to sink shortly after leaving the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on March 6, 1987. A total of 193 people died. The Townsend Thoresen ferry left Zeebrugge with the bow doors to its car deck open. Within seconds, water rushed in and the ship foundered. Today's car ferries must have cameras fitted so captains can check the doors are closed before vessels leave port.


Commuters hurrying through King's Cross Underground station on November 18, 1987, just wanted to get home. Instead, they were caught in a fireball that killed 31 people. Investigators concluded that the fire probably started after a discarded match ignited rubbish and grease under a wooden escalator. Smoking was banned on the Underground but people used to light up on their way out of stations. The Fennell Report into the fire made 157 safety recommendations, some of which are still being worked on today.


Nobody believed that working aboard a North Sea oil rig was without risk. But 167 dead? The sheer scale of the Piper Alpha disaster shocked the nation to its core. A gas leak sparked a series of explosions on July 6, 1988, tearing the oil platform apart and sending flames over 100 metres into the air. The Cullen Report into the tragedy - the world's worst-ever offshore oil disaster - found severe shortfalls in the safety procedures of Piper Alpha's owners, Occidental Oil. As a result of the Cullen Report, most oil companies reformed and tightened their safety regimes.


It was supposed to be a fun afternoon at the footie. But 96 people were crushed to death on April 15, 1989, during an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield's Hillsborough stadium. Liverpool fans were pinned against recently introduced security fences after police officers opened a gate, allowing hundreds of supporters to surge on to already overcrowded sections of the terraces. The Taylor Report into the disaster led to the introduction of all-seater football stadiums.


Britain's railway system was already under pressure on October 5, 1999. Critics had been voicing safety fears, complaining that the network was overloaded. That morning, those fears became reality as a commuter train passed red signals while leaving Paddington station and struck an oncoming express train. Thirty-one people died and more than 400 were injured. Lord Cullen, who led the Piper Alpha inquiry, criticised Railtrack in his report into the crash and made 88 safety recommendations. In April 2004, Thames Trains, the operator of the commuter service, was fined £2 million for its part in the crash.