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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Rail nuts 'were already loose'
Potters Bar crash site
Engineers edged the stricken carriage to safety
A pair of nuts at the centre of the Potters Bar rail crash inquiry were discovered loose nine days before the accident, it has been revealed.

Rail maintenance contractor Jarvis has said it made the discovery during a routine check on 1 May.

A spokesman said the nuts were screwed back in place - but were found detached again after the accident on 10 May which killed seven and injured more than 40.

The news comes on the day the Health and Safety Executive released its interim report into the crash which confirmed that a fault in a set of points south of the station caused the derailment.


  • Points are held in place by 'stretcher bars'
  • Each bar held by four anti-vibration nuts
  • Why were nuts missing at Potters Bar?


  • The HSE report showed there was no signal failure, no driver error and no evidence to support vandalism theories.

    It said that track maintenance records, particularly those in relation to the points, had been secured by British Transport Police, who also had a video film of the crash captured by station cameras.

    The report added that the fourth coach - which jammed under the station canopy - sustained "significant external damage although the passenger accommodation remained substantially intact"

    However, internal fittings and furniture became detached, and windows were shattered.

    The rear bogie of the derailed fourth coach was torn off by collision with the bridge superstructure and came to rest near the southern end of the platform, causing severe damage to the bridge, it said.

    Work to remove the train carriage wedged beneath a platform roof at Potters Bar railway station was continuing into Tuesday afternoon.

    Two nylon straps were attached to the passenger carriage and a crane used to raise it a few feet in the air and slowly move it across the station.

    Engineers were forced to delay the operation to drag the carriage clear with a crane on Monday night because of high winds.

    'Frightening'

    Railtrack has announced it hopes to have services running through the station again by Monday of next week - 10 days after the accident.

    Renewed attempts to move the train came as a former rail engineer told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme there was a "lack of knowledge" in all aspects of track maintenance work.

    Speaking anonymously to the programme, he said: "Even if these points were checked the day before, it's a frightening thought about their quality control.

    "There are certain lines that staff do not like going on. There are certain areas of track they do not want to travel on."

    Launch new window : DIAGRAM
    Click here for a detailed diagram of the points

    Meanwhile Gwyneth Dunwoody, head of the Commons Transport Committee, called for Railtrack to take maintenance back into its own hands and out of that of sub-contractors.

    She said: "There is a kind of culture that exists at Railtrack where maintenance is moved around from company to company and they are then competing with one another.

    "There is a lot of evidence that people have been taken on when they have not got the proper classifications and that you can buy these classifications in pubs."

    Responsibility

    John Armitt, Railtrack's chief executive, said the company was taking steps to improve feedback from maintenance checks.

    He said Railtrack was recruiting more engineers to "be more active in interpreting" the maintenance check data received from the sub-contractors.

    John Armitt, chief executive, Railtrack
    Armitt - 'We are the responsible authority'

    He added: "We are the responsible authority and we would like to make the key decisions and take back some of the responsibility to ourselves."

    Rail workers and passengers on the line claim they warned about the state of repair on the track long before the accident.

    But Mr Armitt said he could find no record of workers' concerns over the points involved.

    They had been visually inspected the day before the crash and subjected to a more thorough check a week earlier.

    He said the company had not ruled out sabotage.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's John Andrew
    "There is no question of sabotage"
    The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
    "It's not going to be a quick process"
    Brian Cooke, Rail Passengers Committee
    "Public confidence has clearly been shaken"
    General Secretary of ASLEF Mick Rix
    "There is an issue in relation to the supervision and maintenance of essential areas"

    Key stories

    Background

    INTERACTIVE GUIDE

    AUDIO VIDEO

    TALKING POINT

    IN DEPTH COVERAGE
    See also:

    14 May 02 | England
    13 May 02 | Business
    14 May 02 | England
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