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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?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
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.
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?
If these bolts where fitted with split-pins as a safety measure it may prevent it happening again.
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.
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)?
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?
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.
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.
This accident shows that we don't just need safety systems installed but decent rails too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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
David Warn, UK
And we are still going to privatise the tube?
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.
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