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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Potters Bar train crash: Your reaction
A faulty set of points caused the Potters Bar rail crash on Friday, according to crash investigators.

The discovery has led to a nationwide inspection of up to 120 sets of points around the Railtrack network.

Senior Railtrack sources have described the move as a routine check but confirmed that investigators did not believe the train came off the track because of a broken rail.

Commuters have told BBC News Online's Talking Point that they frequently felt a "jolt" on that part of the line.

Three of the train's four carriages derailed, and one of them fell onto its side, leaving passengers trapped inside.

Seven people died in the crash and five are still critically injured.

What does the accident say about the state of the British railways? Do you feel safe travelling by train in Britain?

Click here to read your previous comments

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


The track was rising between 1 and 3 inches above the sleeper

Keith Bryson, Stevenage, England
I keep hearing the same quote regarding more people being killed on the roads and that train travel is safer. Surely, if you compared the number of vehicles on British roads against the amount of trains running on the network, the ratio of accidents versus miles travelled should be worse for rail transport? As a regular user of the Kings Cross line, I was also appalled to see LENGTHS of track completely detached from sleepers, within 1 mile of Kings Cross station. The track was rising between 1 and 3 inches above the sleeper as the train bogey passed over sections of the same track nearby.
Keith Bryson, Stevenage, England

Before I moved to Japan I used the King's Cross to King's Lynn line regularly and was horrified to hear about the accident. I felt thankful that although I now travel by train every day in Japan I need not worry about a similar disaster. Trains in Japan are cheap (in comparison to the UK ones), clean and punctual.
Claire, Japan


The terrible state of the track should have been picked up by train drivers.

Rob, United Kingdom
As an ex-operations controller my immediate reaction concerning the terrible state of the track on the East Coast main line is that it should have been picked up by train drivers. It is part of their duties to report 'rough riding' to the signaller who will then caution trains and make necessary arrangements with the maintenance staff. They MUST act upon the information they receive and rectify the fault before normal working can resume. If passengers are concerned they should speak to a member of train crew or station staff who will then report it to the appropriate staff. This is the quickest and most effective way to raise a track issue. However, it does not excuse poor maintenance of the track nor poor management of sub-contractors. It's time the whole organisation of our railways was looked at again.
Rob, United Kingdom

Firstly, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the seven people who died. I work for the railways in New South Wales and for a long time the state government tried to sell off the railways in the same way you have done in Britain. We got split into three organisations, one to run the trains, one to do the maintenance and one to manage rail access. Costs were cut and accidents did happen. A major recommendation from the inquiry into the Glenbrook disaster was that the maintenance and access sides of the railways be brought back together. Now this has been done, there's even talk of bringing the passenger trains back and making it one again... The sad fact is that they will never learn. How can you run a railway safely for a profit?
Daniel, Australia

If these bolts where fitted with split-pins as a safety measure it may prevent it happening again.
Alex Hunter, UK


Lack of tolerance for delays and refusal to pay high fares puts pressure on the train operating companies.

Tim Brook, England
People who travel by train do so in the main because it is the quickest and most convenient way to get to their destination, yet their lack of tolerance for delays and refusal to pay high fares puts pressure on the train operating companies. By trying to satisfy a very demanding customer they, in turn, put Railtrack under pressure to increase the number of services to an absolute maximum and to reduce maintenance delays, therefore making an over-stretched and unsafe system. It is about time that we all started to accept that there is no such thing as a perfect mode of transport and sacrificed the need for speed in exchange for a safer journey.
Tim Brook, England

Having travelled on this line for almost 30 years I have felt pretty safe up until now. However, on arrival into Platform 11 at Kings Cross yesterday morning (Monday) my colleagues and I were looking out of the window and noticed that a rail joint on Platform 9 had 4 bolts sticking through it but only 3 nuts securing it. We mentioned this to a member of staff at the barrier as we walked through and were pleased to see last night that 2 new nuts and bolts had been replaced and had been painted white. If it is like this in a main London terminal, it gives me and my fellow travellers no confidence whatsoever in the people who decide to inspect the track and over what intervals.
David Phillips, UK

How many people died on the roads that day? Small comfort I know, but it's still safer on the rails. But please, it can't be impossible to do some nuts up in a way that means they don't shake loose again. My car has a plethora of methods from spring washers, to locknuts and castellated nuts. This sounds like poor design as much as poor maintenance. And what about using inspection trains (like they have for the underground) where the track is video taped (so we can then see what the situation REALLY was the day before), and the inspection can be carried out in the warm and dry (so no need to rush cos you're cold)?
Dave, England

Why has it happened again? Why have more people had to die? and even more injured? No one will ever forget any of these accidents. The memory of these accidents is always with you, every time you set foot on a train. How many more people will have to die? How many more injured? and how many families will be ruined before anything is done?
Rachel, Herts, England


My friend's girlfriend died on the train

Nigel Griffiths, London, UK
I have just found out this morning that one of my best friends' girlfriend was one of the people who died on the train. This is terrible, it should never ever happen again.
Nigel Griffiths, London, UK

I spoke to my mum this morning and found out that her sister was one of the "lucky" passengers in that last car. She and a fellow passenger escaped through a window. Seeing the images on the BBC website truly brings it home.
Paulie, Seattle, USA

I was due to travel on that service yesterday from London to Kings Lynn. Had I not been offered what turned out to be a lifeline by my cousin at the last minute I would have been on that train, and quite possible dead or injured. I'm not fond of travelling by train at the best of times. Right now I'm in shock. It is difficult to realise just how close I came to being injured or killed. As for the issue of privatisation, what more evidence does the government need? Privatisation does not work. As long as private companies are involved, the first priority is profits - to satisfy the shareholders.
Katie Shepperd, London, UK

This accident shows that we don't just need safety systems installed but decent rails too.
Giles Jones, Hatfield, UK

The best way of honouring those whose lives were lost or wrecked is to prevent repetition. There seems to be a recurring factor of passengers reporting trains making unusual lurching motions. Aircraft have vibration sensors which will cause alarms to signal that something is wrong. Our trains should have similar equipment. Collect the data in a database and analyse for repeated instances on the same stretch of track. This would enable a database to be created for emergency, preventive speed restrictions and inspections. I fear that the engineers will not take passenger reports seriously. But they will take their own data very seriously.
Michael Dyer, UK


I remember seeing people bleeding and just thinking this shouldn't have happened

Nick R, England
I was in a friend's car at the other side of the high street from the crash. The windows were wound down and we were overwhelmed by the smell of smoke. I left the car, and nothing prepared me for what I saw when I arrived at the scene. I didn't go up to the platform but two friends of mine were there, they were in shock, but had helped people up there. I called the people I had left in the car and could barely speak. The emergency services arrived so quickly. I remember seeing people bleeding and just thinking this shouldn't have happened.
Nick R, England

Why isn't there an email address where passengers can quickly and easily report information on bad sections of track? Or a free-phone number: many people carry cell-phones and could report bad track while they are still on the train. Riders on the London Underground receive some amazing jolts as well.
Thomas Dodington, USA

My thoughts are with the families who lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy that strikes another devastating blow to Britain's railways. This couldn't have come at a worse time, just when everyone was hoping we might finally get some much needed investment into our network. This now looks unlikely and I fear the consequences Hatfield brought may occur again as passengers lose confidence and speed restrictions are inevitably implemented. Railtrack have some serious questions to answer as the fault seems to lie with them once again.
Martin Gallagher, UK

The fact that the trains in England travel simply too fast on a track network which is unable to provide the necessary support is glaringly obvious and no one has the strength of character to get up and do anything about it.
Harry McLeay, New Zealand


At Potters Bar trains jar, judder, jump and come to abrupt halts time and time again

Richard Aronowitz, England
I commute between Cambridge and London twice a day, five days a week, 48 weeks a year, and pass over the same stretch of track where the accident happened at Potters Bar. The rolling stock and track are patently ill-maintained, and trains jar, judder, jump and come to abrupt halts time and time again. Often, trains seemingly go faster than usual as the driver tries to make up time after being delayed by unexplained problems - usually simply put down to "incoming delays at Cambridge/King's Cross". The more you travel by rail in Britain, I presume the greater the risk to one's life, like with most forms of travel.
Richard Aronowitz, England

At a tragic moment like this my heart goes out to families of those killed, and to the injured. We must also remember that in Britain we manage to kill around 4,000 people a year on the roads, with a lot more serious injuries. Road deaths don't usually make such headline news, but they are still as tragic. I will personally still use rail transport to commute into London. I realise there are risks, however these are much smaller than going by road.
Karl H, London

As a signalman, I would like to give a bit of background to 'rough rides'. Train drivers should report all instances of genuine rough rides to the signalman. The signalman should then advise all trains that pass over the affected location of the report so that they can travel at reduced speed. This should continue until the line has been inspected and any repairs required carried out. I can understand why some of you have said that a means for passengers to report jolts, etc is required, but the consequences of this would have to be understood. I imagine it would be very difficult for the average passenger to identify the affected location, unless it is close to a station. The rough ride may be in the middle of nowhere, or in a complex multi track area: both present difficulties. In busy areas, even the smallest and most short-lived of problems can bring the railway to a near standstill, as trains run only a minute or two apart. Are passengers honestly prepared to accept this?
Dan, UK

I have lived in Potters Bar for a long time and I have never seen anything as bad as this. It has happened in other places but I would have never thought that it could happen here. I want to know if public transport is going to get better. Are they going to keep letting this happen? Lots of people have been found dead. I feel that you can't trust public transport any more.
Emma Scott, Potters Bar, England

My deepest sympathies go out to all that were affected by yesterday's rail tragedy. I feel that it's about time that this and any future government accepts that the UK travel network is unsafe, and ensure adequate funding to make the network safe. Life is worth more than any monetary value.
Ross, UK


Our whole office building shook

Shimal Thakrar, Potters Bar, UK
I work in Potters Bar. I had left the office only ten minutes before the crash took place. Our whole office building shook - all my colleagues were in shock, our office first aid people were perhaps the first at the scene trying to do whatever they could to help. My wife was on the train directly behind the one that derailed at Potters Bar. My sympathy to all the friends and family affected by this event. My salute to the emergency services and local ordinary people of Potters Bar in working through the events in a professional manner.
Shimal Thakrar, Potters Bar, UK

I use this line every day to and from work, as I live in Barnet and work in the city. This really scares me, especially so soon after Hatfield, but I find it crass for the usual anti-capital brigade to blame this on privatisation. Firstly it could have been a freak accident or sabotage and secondly the trains were horrendously unsafe before privatisation. If this is about money, it is about decades of neglect, but we could at least be sensitive to those suffering at this time and their families.
Thomas Hughes, London, England

The first reaction is horror, the second is blame. I remember school chums narrowly missing death in a railway crash, their stories of waiting for trains that never came, but this was near Lewisham in the late 50s. There have been many crashes since then. The vital thing is what, (if any) preventable thing caused this accident, because we need to fix it. The pictures I have seen suggest no easy answer to the question of what went wrong. I totally agree with Thomas Hughes, this is the time for sensitivity and concern, for those injured, those who have lost relatives and friends and those with the grim tasks that follow such events.
Richard Jones, Hertfordshire, UK

On Bank Holiday Monday I made a train journey along the same piece of track. I commented to my girlfriend at the time that the train was all over the place and I just didn't feel safe. Were we the lucky ones?
Simon Thompson, UK

I can't believe that all those passengers who recall a "jolt" on that part of the track never reported it. Passengers should be actively encouraged to submit their safety concerns. And, what's more, listened to.
Robert Crisp, UK

I feel very sorry for the injured and people who lost love ones in this tragedy. I think it comes down to privatitisation, all these companies want to do is make profits, they cut costs and jobs, therefore the maintenance is not kept up. Public transport should always be kept in the Goverment hands that way the people can keep them honest. I will be in your country in June I will not be travelling by train, I think I'll hire a car.
Bill Cody, Perth . Australia

Reading the comments from passengers about the state of the PB track, did anyone make any attempt to report it? I don't know if there is an easy way to do so, maybe a free phone number to report bad rails is needed.
David Hicklin, UK

I am a mechanical engineer and regular rail passenger, particularly on the Cambridge-London route. I often wince at the shear stresses on the bogeys when the train flies over some track anomaly, or when some low point on the underside of the Eurostar trains smack periodically on the track due to the suspension system which is clearly under-damped for the state of the track it travels on. A back of the envelope calculation leaves me surprised that these tragedies don't occur even more often. I feel inexpressible grief that what was once our greatest national asset is now our shame. My solidarity and compassion goes to the victims and their families who have been unjustly punished for supporting sustainable transport. We must wake up, pay our taxes and put the nation back on its feet.
Tom Smith, England


My house is about level to where the front of the train came to a stop

Dean Heighington, UK
I live in a road that runs parallel to the tracks as they come out of Potters Bar Station. My house is about level to where the front of the train came to a stop. At the time of the incident I was working from my spare bedroom office, ironically, building a website for a UK Rail Exhibition. I recall a powerful vibration that caused my monitor to shake and then the screeching sound of metal shearing against metal. My first thought was "what's a freight train doing coming past at this time of day?" They usually pass by late at night with similar noises, but not the same kind of vibrations. Within minutes I heard the sound of sirens, followed shortly by the Virgin Air Ambulance which was obviously going to land in the station car park, which it has done before. Expecting a relatively minor incident and a need to pop down to the shops, I decided to take a walk... emerging from the alley at the top of my road, I couldn't believe what I saw.
Dean Heighington, UK

One of my friends was on the platform at the time. He forgot something and went back to his car in the station car park. At that time the tragedy struck. He is ok but like anyone else in the area he is shaken up. From his explanation it sounded like the train was breaking before the incident which would lead you believe the driver saw something on the line or a problem. As I'm from PB my feelings go out to anyone involved.
Nevvy, England

My girlfriend lives in Potters Bar. For the last four years she's travelled to her university in London by train. Today is her last day, but instead of enjoying it she is now simply thankful to be alive. Our thoughts go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy.
Andy Robinson, UK

I have just read a copy of the Railway 'in-house' newspaper Rail News. There are 15 pages of job vacancies for the railway industry in 36 different companies. Could this have anything to do with the state the railway system is in today and has the large number of companies involved in track maintenance, testing, signalling, training and consultation to the rail industry any relationship to the apparent decrease in safety?
A. Parkinson, England

I travel between Finsbury Park and Potters Bar every day and had it not been for a last minute decision to stay at school for a revision session me and my friends would have been standing on the platform where the train is wedged just as this crash occurred. It is a terrifying thought.
Jack, London

I was on the front coach of the 14.29 PB going into KX on Tuesday when it hit something on the track. There was some serious bangs and thumps under the train which caused considerable panic. The driver stopped just short of Alexandra Palace to investigate. Was this the same damaged coach at the rear of the train that ended up on the platform today?
Andy, Potters Bar


I have never seen anything so horrific in my life

Shreena U, Hertfordshire
I was one of the first on the scene of the crash. I go to school nearby and was just on my way home. I go onto this platform every day almost, and my best friend takes the train twice a day. We both were walking up to the platform when it happened, and were there to help afterwards. I have never seen anything so horrific in my life, I saw two dead people. One woman was dying when I got there, and as I stood by her, her pulse was fading. This is the latest in a number of crashes, and being there myself makes me realise that something must be done about it. I was there, I saw the effects of this tragedy, and I never want to see anything like it again. My sympathies go out to all the families of the victims, and to anyone involved.
Shreena U, Hertfordshire

I live in Potters Bar and was at school while the crash happened. As awful as the crash was, I dread to think how much worse it could have been had the crash happened at 4pm instead of 1pm, when it would have been full of pupils from the two main local schools. As it is, friends of mine (including Sam Irving, interviewed on this site) were lucky to escape uninjured and many were not so fortunate. The state of public transport in this country and this area is shocking and something needs to be done about it urgently, whether the cause was faulty track or vandalism. In recent months I've noticed the state of the track at the station getting worse and worse through litter dropped on it (ever since McDonalds was built opposite the station) and there have been incidents of people trespassing onto the railway lines at the station.
Dan, Potters Bar, UK

As a proud UK railway worker, I am not surprised by the comments people make here. Yes it's true that the network doesn't appear to be getting safer, but believe me, there are plenty of likeminded fellow railwaymen and women who are dedicated to providing a safe railway at all times whatever the weather.
Dave, UK

I work in Leeds next to a large office that was a British Rail training centre. It's been closed for years. The multitude of private contractors still responsible for maintaining the railway, with their managers regularly transferring between industries, do not have the training capability to run a safe railway!
Stephen Bird, UK


I heard a rupturing sound and turned to see the rear carriage twisting across the track

John Slade, London
I couldn't believe it, I had literally passed under the railway bridge about thirty seconds before it happened. I heard a rupturing sound and turned to see the rear carriage twisting across the track. It was speeding towards the station when I lost sight over the top of the bridge. I then ran towards the cars underneath the bridge only to find there was no way to get to them. Luckily I believe these people were more shocked than anything. Damage to the cars but not to them, THANKFULLY!!
John Slade, London

Those of us who worked for British Rail before being made redundant when it was privatised could see all this coming. Contractors are only interested in profits, private industry only in keeping the shareholders happy. Re-nationalise the railways and get the experienced staff back you so foolishly disregarded.
Clive James, Wales

I was driving under the bridge and had just emerged from it heading into Potters Bar when I heard an almighty crash behind me. I looked in my rear view mirror to see clouds of dust pluming up and thought the bridge had collapsed. I later realised how lucky I had been not to have been hit by falling debris. Four cars and a lorry on the other side of the road did not escape.
Carl Dolman, UK


My thoughts are with the families of people injured or worse in today's incident

Stuart Bollons, England
My brother and father both drive trains for WAGN. Hopefully they are okay - it is a constant worry when you hear of incidents like this. How many more people are to die or get injured before someone takes responsibility for sorting out this underfunded shambolic mess we call a railway in a civilised country? My thoughts are with the families of people injured or worse in today's incident.
Stuart Bollons, England

I work just next to the railway line in Cambridge and the derailed train probably passed my office earlier this morning. Now it is a twisted wreck, final resting place of at least three innocent people going about their daily tasks and heeding government requests to use public transport. No family in this country, or anywhere, should have to watch their loved ones leave for work in the morning and wonder if they will ever come back.
Les, Cambridge, UK

I am fifteen so if I want to travel somewhere, 95% of the time I do it by train. It is worrying that every time I do so I am taking my life into my own hands and actively taking a risk. One thing that has always puzzled me is how in cars, buses, taxis, aeroplanes, and most types of transport there is the option of wearing a seatbelt...however there are no seatbelts on trains. Why is that?
Alex Barber, England


Every day I hear the same pathetic excuses

Brian Key, Potters Bar
I live in Potters Bar and use this awful excuse for a cattle shuttle service every day. And every day I hear the same pathetic excuses for the lack of or delays to services. Every day as these wrecks of rolling stock lurch their way along I get worried about safety. Yet nothing, but NOTHING gets done.
Brian Key, Potters Bar

Firstly my thoughts are with the families of those dead and injured. My uncle's life was ruined by the Cannon Street crash; he never worked again after his injuries.
Simon Doderer, England

Any accidental death is appalling. The aftermath of a rail accident is a shocking picture, and it is natural to demand explanations. On Britain's roads, every day, on average nine people are killed. Nine people on Friday, nine people on Saturday, nine people today, and every day. Where are the headlines? Where are the royal family bedside visits? Why aren't these deaths tragedies?
Rachel Evans, England

I'm a local resident. If this had happened just a couple of hours later, the platform would have been filled with school children. The idea of that is too horrible to contemplate.
C. Nolan, Hertfordshire, England

I gave up using overpriced trains from Gerrards Cross and moved into the centre of London at a huge expense but it's incidents like this that make it feel like it was well justified
Roger Allen, UK


The track at Potters Bar is notorious

David Warn, UK
I travel on that line every day and the track at Potters Bar is notorious. Not exactly a huge surprise, but nor will be the fact that nothing will get done and six months later a few more families will be devastated. Until the next time eh? I can't wait for tonight's journey home. Perhaps Mr Byers will join us for the ride.
David Warn, UK

And we are still going to privatise the tube?
Doug Scott, UK

Often when I travel from St Albans down to London on a fast train I notice bumps in the tracks, which can knock a can clean off a table. I travel quite a lot on trains in Belgium and I don't notice the same problems.
Martin Aird, England


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