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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Rail workers 'checked wrong line'
The stricken carriage is lifted from Potters Bar station
Police are investigating the new claims
A mistake by Railtrack may have led to a missed opportunity to prevent the Potters Bar train crash, the BBC has learned.

It is understood that Railtrack staff wrongly instructed maintenance workers to inspect the line towards London, after a report of poor track conditions, hours before the crash.

The maintenance contractor, Jarvis, should have been told to check the line from London, on which the accident happened.

BBC transport correspondent Simon Montague says that the mix-up happened after a report of a "rough ride" on the track near Potters Bar station, the evening before the 10 May crash.

Rail inspectors at Potters Bar
Investigators inspect the track after the crash

An off-duty rail worker travelling home on the down line from London contacted Railtrack signal control at King's Cross.

Railtrack staff passed the report to the Jarvis fault control in York. But Jarvis says tape recordings show that its staff were told to inspect the up line, towards London.

No fault was found.

Railtrack describe the story as "speculative".

The police and crash investigators are examining the communications between the two companies.

They want to know whether the loose nuts which caused the crash might have been found, if the correct, down line from London had been checked.

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

Railtrack says it cannot confirm the instructions given to Jarvis.

The company has withdrawn an earlier assurance that Jarvis did inspect both lines.

Faulty points

A Railtrack spokesman said: "Tape recordings of conversations and information fed to and from our signalling centre at King's Cross were withdrawn by the British Transport Police immediately following the Potters Bar tragedy as a routine part of their investigation.

"As a result Railtrack is unable to comment on the allegations made today by the BBC."

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 main faulty points.

Last week, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling condemned track around the station as "appalling" following the publication of a damning new report into the accident.

The second interim study into the disaster concluded up to 20% of nuts on nearby sets of points were not fully tightened at the time.

Bereaved families have repeatedly called for a full public inquiry into the crash.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Simon Montague
"Railtrack says all the evidence is with the police"
Writer on rail safety, Christian Wolmer
"This breakdown in communication is likely to happen again and again"

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