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Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 09:06 GMT
Investigators search for a cause
The derailed train
Investigations are under way into the crash's cause
Transport police and train safety experts are continuing their investigations into the cause of Tuesday's train derailment at Hatfield, in which four people died.

Investigators appear to have discounted theories such as terrorism and driver error.

They are now focusing their attention on possibilities like vandalism, track failure through breakage or buckling, and wheel or axle failure.

HM Railway Inspectorate, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and British Transport Police are all investigating the incident.

Mechanical breakdown

GNER said there was a derailment two years ago involving the same type of rolling stock as Tuesday's crash.

The incident on 16 June, 1998, at Sandy, Bedfordshire, involved GNER's nine-coach 1730 BST King's Cross-to-Edinburgh service.

The company removed all Mark 4 coaches from service for wheel checks after discussions with Railtrack and the HSE.

Security experts are continuing to check the site
Carriages toppled onto their sides
Investigations found metal fatigue in the wheels of the rolling stock.

A maintenance firm was fined 175,000 in July this year as a result of that incident.

Richard Hope, a spokesman for the Railway Gazette, said the previous crash had similarities to Tuesday's incident.

"My mind clearly goes back to the accident two years ago," he said.

"It was the same type of train and was an accident rather similar in many ways, as the carriages derailed in the middle of the train rather than front of the train.

"In that case a wheel had broken and a fragment of the wheel went up through the floor of the carriage.

"Mechanical failure on the train, on balance, is the most likely cause of this accident at the moment, but we need a lot more information."


Railway Magazine deputy editor Chris Milner said investigators will look closely at what part of the train was derailed.

"From what we know of the incident it was the rear part which was derailed," he said.

"I would have thought that if any debris was placed on the line, it would have either been pushed away or caused the front part of the train to derail.

"That suggests a failure in the train's wheels or axles, or a track defect, and that will be for the investigators to look into."

Signal failure

The BBC's transport correspondent, Daniel Boettcher, said Railtrack initially appear to have ruled out the possibility that the train was on the wrong line or signal failure.

"Railtrack said earlier that they believed the train was on the correct track and the signals, as far as they are aware, were working," he said.

Terrorist threat

Police have ruled out the possibility of a terrorist bomb.

They revealed that threats were received against the King's Cross-to-Peterborough line on Sunday.

Route of the 1210 Kings Cross to Leeds service
British Transport Police Assistant Chief Constable Paul Nicholas said: "Two days ago a threat was received on a line of railway between King's Cross and Peterborough".

"The injuries showed nothing consistent with a bomb blast. Threats are made on a daily basis but very rarely end up with an incident."

Driver error

Driver error also appears to have been discounted.

Test for drink and drugs on both the driver and a trainee driver, who was in the cab at the time, have proved negative.

The government has requested an urgent report into the incident.

Mr Boettcher said investigators could find out within hours what they think are the most likely avenues they should be pursuing, but the full inquiry could take months.

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