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Saturday, 18 May, 2002, 08:08 GMT 09:08 UK
Sabotage 'may have caused' rail crash
Engineers at Potters Bar
The points have been removed for examination
Sabotage by an "informed person" may have caused the Potters Bar train crash, the engineering firm responsible for track maintenance has said.

Jarvis said the theory that somebody with "utterly perverse" intent could have tampered with the points that derailed the train and killed seven people should be treated more seriously.

But one rail expert dismissed this suggestion, accusing Jarvis of putting up a "smokescreen" in the face of mounting evidence suggesting that poor maintenance had led to the crash.

Jarvis chief operating officer Kevin Hyde said there was no maintenance requirement for two nuts found lying by the track to be removed, or for a switch rail used to shift trains to another piece of line to be moved.


This new evidence is such that the sabotage option should not be ruled out

Kevin Hyde
Jarvis chief operating officer
Mr Hyde said there was also evidence of a sabotage attempt nine days before the 10 May accident, when a set of undone nuts was discovered on nearby points during a maintenance check.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Hyde said evidence about the causes of the crash was emerging "day by day".

"What we are saying is that this new evidence is such that the sabotage option should not be ruled out of the investigation," he said.

"If this was done 24 hours before the accident it could not be part of the maintenance regime and should be investigated for its cause."

Mr Hyde said he could not speculate about who might have carried out such sabotage.

However, he added; "This is not cockeyed. It is based on evidence of real experts with decades of experience of examining metal."


It really is... a desperate attempt by Jarvis to put up a smokescreen when most of their evidence points the other way

Christian Wolmar
But rail expert Christian Wolmar told BBC News: "This is a very serious bit of sabotage if it was sabotage. The whole configuration of these points has somehow got completely out of alignment. To have done that through sabotage does seem very unlikely.

"This is not a matter of just undoing a couple of bolts. It is hard work. It really is I think a desperate attempt by Jarvis to put up a smokescreen when most of their evidence points the other way.

"Of course, if it isn't sabotage it's down to them [Jarvis]."

A British Transport Police (BTP) spokesman said its officers and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had no concrete evidence to suggest sabotage, although it was too early to rule the theory out.

An interim report by the Health and Safety Executive, released earlier this week, said its initial investigations showed the nuts may not have been replaced properly, or that maintenance work was unfinished.

The HSE wants to establish why the nuts were missing
It said that if sabotage was involved it would have been of "an extremely sophisticated and daring nature".

The BTP spokesman said: "Jarvis's speculation is based on secondary evidence in the form of photos.

"We and the HSE are examining the primary evidence and will pursue all areas of inquiry to determined the cause of this derailment."

The damage to the points caused the fourth carriage of a train travelling at 100mph to derail and land sideways on the platform at Potters Bar.

In addition to those killed, more than 70 people were injured.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Brain
"Jarvis are adamant sabotage is a real possibility"
Kevin Hyde, Chief Operating Officer for Jarvis
"Were not reaching any conclusions"
Rail analyst Christian Wolmar
"I think it's largely a smokescreen"

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15 May 02 | England
14 May 02 | UK Politics
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14 May 02 | England
13 May 02 | Business
14 May 02 | England
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