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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Several Potters Bar points 'were faulty'
The Potters Bar crash scene
Sabotage has again been discounted
Investigations have revealed that up to 20% of nuts on points near Potters Bar station were not fully tightened.

The second interim report into the fatal train crash at the Hertfordshire station was published on Thursday and confirmed that the much-discussed set of points the train rode over before the accident was faulty.

But is also showed that others in the area were below standard.


The derailment resulted from... nuts missing in adjustable stretcher bars in the points, which caused them to fail catastrophically

Dr Mike Weightman
HSE

The report, by the Health and Safety Executive, discounted claims by maintenance contractor Jarvis that sabotage could be the cause of the problems with the main points.

It backed the first report's findings that there was "no evidence" to support those "speculation" theories, although HSE inspectors were "keeping an open mind"

After the report's release, the leader of the train drivers' union Aslef said prosecutions should now be "urgently considered".

Seven people died and dozens were injured when the King's Cross to King's Lynn passenger service came off the tracks as it passed over the points.

Launch new window : The points failure
Click above to see how the train derailed

Thursday's HSE report recommended that Railtrack and its contractors should review the standard, specification and design of points.

Wedged

It confirmed the first report's preliminary conclusions that nuts missing from a part of the points caused those points to "fail catastrophically".

Engineers examine the points
The points were taken away for forensic investigation
The train's rear coach detached from the others and came to rest on its side, wedged under the station canopy.

But the report went on: "It is too early in the investigation, which is being led by British Transport Police, to pronounce definitively on the direct or root cause of the accident."

The nuts were missing from adjustable stretcher bars which keep the moveable section of track at the correct width for the train's wheels.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] The HSE said the set up of the main points in question - designated as number 2182A - was found "not to be as designed".

But it also said a test of a sample of nuts on the stretcher bars of other points in the Potters Bar area had indicated that "20% were not fully tight".

'Design gaps'

The report added that the points were undergoing detailed examination at an HSE laboratory in Buxton, Derbyshire, and this had "identified other differences in their condition compared to the standards expected".

Some fastenings could not be tested with the tools available because of "design gaps," the HSE said.

The report added: "The results of tightness tests of the nuts on stretcher bars in the area around Potters Bar indicate there may be mechanisms that cause nuts to lose tightness."

Victims have blamed "poor maintenance" and "botched privatisation", and police focus has fallen on maintenance workers.

New investigative body

British Transport Police have been hunting five "mystery" workers wearing orange jackets, seen on the track hours before the Potters Bar train crash.

But no-one from Railtrack or Jarvis knows who they were, and police inquiries have so far failed to trace them.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling earlier this week announced that a new body would be set up to replace the HSE in investigating train crashes.

That followed criticism by victims of the Potters Bar crash over the speed and efficiency of the HSE's investigations.

Contracting questions

Author Nina Bawden, who lost her husband and was herself badly injured in the crash, said it was difficult to have faith in the HSE because of its dual role in both regulating and investigating the railways.

She pointed out that its final report into the Hatfield crash in October 2000 had still not been published almost two years after the event.

Mr Darling has also criticised the chain of contracting-out in the rail industry, saying it is "a big issue and a problem that we know has to be sorted out".

He said the problem was not the use of subcontractors, but the lack of proper checks on them.

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The BBC's Simon Montague
"Nuts fell off the points"

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