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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
'Faulty track' focus of crash inquiry
The scene of the crash
The search of the site could take days
An investigation is under way into the Potters Bar train crash, which claimed seven lives.

Attention is focused on the set of points that the train passed at high speed just before its rear carriage came off the track and careered on its side onto the platforms.

Railway experts have suggested a fault on the points or surrounding trackwork could be to blame and commuters have told BBC News Online they frequently felt a "jolt" on that part of the line.


Wreckage at Potters Bar station
The rear carriage flipped across two platforms
Potters Bar crash
  • Seven people died
  • Five are still critically injured
  • Investigation teams are combing the scene

      More images

  • But investigators, who started work in earnest at the site on Saturday, have so far refused to be drawn on what they think the cause could be.

    British Transport Police Inspector Philip Trendall said up to 40 officers - many veterans of previous rail crashes - were helping with the search and looking for personal belongings of passengers.

    He confirmed that crash investigators were studying a set of points which it is thought may have derailed the last carriage.

    "Clearly that is one focus for the inquiry. At the moment it's still a blank piece of paper," he said.

    It is thought the train was travelling at up to 100 mph at the time of the crash.

    Critical condition

    Prince Charles visited survivors of the crash in two north London hospitals on Saturday.

    His first stop was Barnet General Hospital, followed by a visit to Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.

    "I can never get over how wonderful all the people are in these hospitals and the work they do, and the work of the emergency services," he said.

    A Department of Transport spokesman confirmed Transport Secretary Stephen Byers would visit the crash scene on Saturday afternoon.

    Potters Bar station
    Rescue workers arrived in minutes
    Five people are still critically injured after the derailment of the passenger train, travelling from London to Norfolk, at Potters Bar station in Hertfordshire.

    Driver Andy Gibson has been praised for the way he acted, both at the controls and in helping stricken passengers.

    An investigation has been launched by British Transport Police and HM Railway Inspectorate, and their interim report is expected to be ready within days.

    But Louise Christian, the solicitor acting for the victims of the Southall and Ladbroke Grove disasters, has also called for an immediate public inquiry to be set up into Potters Bar and the Hatfield crash two years ago, which happened just a few miles away.

    Five people died at the scene of Friday's crash and two more died later, with 14 others remaining in hospital overnight.

    'Jolt'

    The train was the 1245 WAGN service from King's Cross, London, to King's Lynn in Norfolk, and was not due to stop at Potters Bar.

    The crash happened just before 1300 BST and caused three of the train's four carriages to be derailed.

    The rear carriage flipped across two platforms and became wedged under the canopy of the station roof.

    Map of Hertfordshire
    Enlarge image Click here for more detail

    Engineers worked through the night to fix a road bridge hit by the train.

    Heavy lifting gear was being moved into place ready for when engineers give the go-ahead for the train to be moved.

    Investigators have covered the set of points at the centre of the inquiry with a blue tarpaulin.

    The crash site remains sealed off. Arrangements are being made to allow relatives of those who died in the crash to lay flowers on the track.

    'Panic'

    However, this might not happen for a few days, said a Hertfordshire Police spokeswoman.

    Richard Hope, a consultant editor for Railway Gazette, said the points could have moved and caused the four-carriage train to come off the tracks.


    The train shuddered and seemed to catapult

    Jane McDonald, Passenger

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    Several News Online users and regular travellers on that line said there was a noticeable "jolt" every time the train went through Potters Bar.

    "Every time we pass that area the carriages have been hitting something on the rail and shaking violently," said Tim Richardson.

    Railtrack said it was "not aware" that there had been any indication of problems on that particular stretch of track.

    Railtrack chief executive John Armitt it had been inspected at least once a week.

    Emergency information phone number: 0845 944 1551. For national rail inquiries call 08457 48 49 50.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
    "It's all questions and few answers"
    Inspector Phil Trendall of British Transport Police
    "It is important... that we start off looking at every possible cause"
    Association of Train Operating Companies George Muir
    "This is really dreadful"
    See also:

    10 May 02 | England
    Town in deep shock
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