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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Crash victims threaten legal action
The coach that crashed into Potters Bar station
The families called again for a public inquiry
Victims of the Potters Bar rail crash are threatening legal action against Railtrack, maintenance firm Jarvis and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

They have also renewed their calls for a public inquiry into the cause of the accident, which claimed the lives of seven people and injured more than 70.

Louise Christian, acting on behalf of the families, said that legal proceedings could be launched because the groups had not admitted liability for the crash.

Railtrack has been giving financial assistance to those who were injured, but had stressed that its offer was not an admission of liability.

An offer of compensation - reported be in the region of 12m - is not expected to be made until the various inquiries into the crash decide who was to blame.

An HSE report in May found that faulty points caused the train to derail, but no party has yet been found responsible for the disaster.

Jarvis, the firm in charge of maintaining the set of rail points, had suggested the track could have been sabotaged prior to the crash.

Inquiry calls

On Monday, Ms Christian repeated the bereaved and victims' demands that the government hold a public inquiry into the crash.

Track checking at Potters Bar
Suspicion quickly fell on broken points

She said: ''We do not believe it is fair for the government to stand back and expect the bereaved and injured to establish who was responsible for this terrible disaster.

"[They] should call a public inqiury as they did over Southall and Ladbroke Grove to hear evidence in public and to reach clear findings."

The BBC's transport correspondent Tom Symonds says that for families to bring about a successful legal action, they would have to carry out their own inquiry.

But the government says such an inquiry would detract from the two investigations by police and the HSE.

However Ms Christian believes the HSE "has a huge conflict of interest" because "as the ulitimate safety regulator it is one of the bodies that could be to blame".

Legal timetable

On the subject of compensation, she said: "The offer that Railtrack made is to pay compensation some time in the future, but we don't know whether that's going to be enough and we can't just sit back and hope that it will be."

The victims must begin legal proceedings on liability within three years of the accident.

Payments are not usually made after a serious rail accident until the insurers for the companies responsible have accepted liability, which is why victims want action now.

The accident occurred when the rear coach of a West Anglia Great Northern train travelling from London to King's Lynn was derailed at the points just south of Potters Bar station in Hertfordshire on 10 May.

The government forced Railtrack into administration last year and will shortly begin the final legal process to terminate its ownership of Britain's rail network.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Symonds
"Two investigations haven't yet decided who is to blame"
Louise Christian, solicitor for victims
"Nobody's accepted responsibility"

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27 Sep 02 | Business
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