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Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Rail crash 'unique incident'
Investigators inspect the points at Potters Bar
A public inquiry has not been ruled out
Railtrack says the Potters Bar rail crash - which claimed seven lives - was a one-off which is unlikely to happen again.

Officials say vital bolts had dislodged - possibly because one or more holding nuts came loose - in the points mechanism which then moved as the train passed over it, causing the derailment.

They are keen to reassure passengers about the safety of rail travel and Railtrack's Chief Executive, John Armitt stressed that engineers had never seen a situation like it before.

Forensic tests are being carried out to find out why and how long the nuts had been loosened, sparking Friday's tragedy.

Jarvis, the company responsible for inspecting the track, insists the points were checked the day before.

All the measures are being put in place to make the railway as safe as it can be

Stephen Byers, Transport Secretary
Railtrack has also confirmed two other assessments were carried out within the past month.

Meanwhile, the Transport Secretary Stephen Byers said it was too early to call a public inquiry into the crash.

Speaking on BBC One's Breakfast with Frost on Sunday, he said: "The Health and Safety Executive and the railway inspectorate are saying they think this is a unique, a one-off event.

"It is not a generic problem which applies across the railway network.

"All the measures are being put in place to make the railway as safe as it can be."

Nationwide checks

Mr Byers will make a statement on the rail crash to the House of Commons on Monday.

Railtrack has confirmed the incident has prompted nationwide points system checks.

Speaking on Breakfast with Frost, its chief executive John Armitt said: "In the last 48 hours, we have carried out checks across 400 sets of points across the whole network.

"We have not found anything similar to what we believe has caused the accident here."

Railtrack Chief Executive John Armitt
Railtrack boss John Armitt: 400 sets of points checked
He said the points passed a safety inspection only the day before and that there had been a thorough investigation at the beginning of May and a further inspection carried out a few weeks prior to this.

It is known the vital components in the trackwork had detached, forcing the rear carriage off the rails as the train passed over it on Friday.

Three train carriages left standing on the tracks were removed from the scene on Sunday, while a crane was put in place to remove the fourth carriage embedded in the station platform.

While the clear up of the crash site continues, the investigation team is to start a minute forensic examination of the failed points.


One element of the inquiry will involve looking for rust in the bolt holes in an effort to date how long they had been dislodged for.

Vandalism, sabotage or poor maintenance may be to blame.

Potters Bar rail crash
The rear carriage flipped across two platforms
Potters Bar crash
  • Seven people died
  • Two are still critically injured
  • Investigation teams are combing the scene

      More images

  • On Sunday remembrance services were held in Potters Bar, after floral tributes were laid at the scene for a second night.

    Relatives of the victims visited the station in groups through the day, laying their own tributes and being given access to counselling by police chaplains temporarily based at a nearby pub.

    The trips were hidden from the view of the media and the public by tarpaulin erected across the road.

    Shadow transport secretary Theresa May also visited the scene and spoke of her shock.

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

    The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
    "Through hymns and prayers, the human loss of the tragedy was reflected in church services"
    UK Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
    "It does appear to be a one-off isolated incident"
    Railtrack chief executive John Armitt
    "We have carried out checks across 400 sets of points across the network"
    See also:

    10 May 02 | England
    Town in deep shock
    11 May 02 | England
    Steel 'folded like napkins'
    12 May 02 | England
    Rail crash victims named
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