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Sunday, 19 May, 2002, 01:47 GMT 02:47 UK
Crash firm defends sabotage theory
Potters Bar crash
Seven people died when faulty points derailed the train
The firm in charge of maintaining the railway line at Potters Bar has been strongly defending its theory that sabotage may have caused the crash which killed seven people.

Former transport minister Steven Norris, who is a non-executive director of the company - Jarvis, told BBC News: "There is real prima facie evidence of sabotage".

Mr Norris said he was putting his reputation on the line and dismissed arguments that he was defending the company against falling share prices and the possibility of a massive compensation claim.

But police investigating the crash, on Friday 10 May, say they have found no evidence of vandalism or sabotage and rail experts have dismissed the possibility of foul play.

'Extraordinary'

Mr Norris, a former Conservative party vice-chairman, said he had spent hours going over "all the forensic evidence that's available".

He said: "When you actually see the prima facie evidence, it's pretty clear - certainly for anybody who understands the railways - that some tampering has been going on here."


I think a desperate attempt by Jarvis to put up a smokescreen

Rail Expert Christian Wolmar
Mr Norris said Railtrack had examined 800 sets of points following the crash and had found no faults.

He said it would mean there must have been "an extraordinary set of circumstances" for three problems to have been found at the set of points involved in the crash unless they had been tampered with

The former minister also suggested it would be far easier for Jarvis to argue that it employed good practices than to take the difficult line of suggesting sabotage.

Earlier Jarvis chief operating officer Kevin Hyde said somebody with "utterly perverse" intent could have tampered with the points that derailed the train.

'Tremendous risk'

On Saturday Roy Bell, a consultant signalling engineer who advises the rail industry on safety issues, told the BBC the chances of the crash being a result of sabotage were slim.

points on track
The HSE wants to establish why the nuts were missing
"It would take an awful lot of know-how," he said.

"It would also incur a tremendous amount of risk on the person actually perpetrating the action... you stand a good chance of being spotted by somebody or being hit by a train."

Rail expert Christian Wolmar also cast doubt over speculation of sabotage - blaming instead a maintenance error.

He said: "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."

Peter Rayner, a former BR safety executive with some 40 years' experience, said there was a "less than 1%" chance the problem was an act of sabotage.

Mr Rayner said he believed the full HSE investigation into the crash would find "a tragic mistake" in the track's installation, maintenance or supervision was responsible.

Investigation continues

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

An interim report by the HSE, published earlier this week, said initial investigations showed the nuts may not have been replaced properly, or that maintenance work was unfinished.

It said that if sabotage was involved it would have been of "an extremely sophisticated and daring nature".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"Police officers conducting the Potters Bar inquiry don't seem convinced by the sabotage theory"
Non-Executive Director of Jarvis, Steven Norris
"Some tampering has been going on"
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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18 May 02 | England
14 May 02 | England
14 May 02 | England
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