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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Potters Bar victim demands full inquiry
Austen Kark, pictured in 1985
Nina Bawden lost her husband of 48 years, Austen Kark
Author Nina Bawden, who lost her husband and was herself badly injured in the Potters Bar rail crash, has called for a full public inquiry into the accident.

Austen Kark, former managing director of the BBC World Service, was among seven killed and 76 injured in the 10 May crash, which has been blamed on faulty points.

Nina Bawden
Nina Bawden: Wants railways nationalised
Ms Bawden told BBC Radio 4's Today programme from her hospital bed a full inquiry was "the only honest way to conduct matters".

"[So] that everybody can be heard and everybody can question and we all know what the answers are.

"What else would you have if you wanted to discover what had happened after a disaster?"

She called for Labour to have the "courage" to tackle the "parlous" state of the railways following privatisation - or at the very least an end to contracting-out in the industry.

Sabotage 'rubbish'

Her call comes as Jarvis, the contractor in charge of maintenance at Potters Bar, announced a sharp rise in profits for the period before the crash.


Jarvis maintains the Potters Bar track
Jarvis maintains the track at Potters Bar
Jarvis results
  • Profits up from 24.8m to 45.8m
  • Safety "remains highest priority"
  • Share price up 10p


  • Ms Bawden said claims by Jarvis that sabotage could have caused the accident were a "load of old rubbish".

    "Of course it's poor maintenance, poor standards, cutting corners - all the sort of things that people do when they have no real feeling for the industry they are working in.

    "I would like to see the railways nationalised and brought back in a decent, proper way.

    "But if that can't be done immediately I would like to see Railtrack at least responsible, totally, with their own properly trained men."

    Letter

    Former transport secretary Stephen Byers said he would await the HSE's full report before deciding whether to seek a public inquiry.

    But that could be some time - the full report on Hatfield in October 2000 has not yet been published.


    New Labour took a gamble on Railtrack because they didn't have the political will to put things right and my husband paid with his life

    Nina Bawden

    Ms Bawden said it was difficult to have faith in the HSE anyway, because of its dual role in both regulating and investigating the railways.

    Ms Bawden and other members of Mr Kark's family - including their children - have sent a letter to new Transport Secretary Alistair Darling calling for a full public inquiry.

    The couple's daughter Perdita Kark, Ms Bawden's son Robert Bawden, brother Robin Mabey and granddaughter Jessica Bawden, and Mr Kark's daughters Teresa Solomon and Catherine Barribeau said Potters Bar had been "avoidable".

    They blamed it on "poor maintenance" with the root causes a "botched privatisation" and a failure to address until recently "the institutional failings of privatisation".

    HSE questioned

    The relatives said: "The present inquiry processes lack the well established principles of transparency, fairness and impartiality.

    Points on track
    Defective points probably caused the Potters Bar crash
    "There is no testing of evidence and it is hard to avoid the feeling that the inquiries are cosy industry affairs."

    They said they wanted their lawyers to be able to test the evidence - in particular Jarvis's claims that sabotage could have been to blame for missing bolts on the points.

    Ms Bawden, who was married to Mr Kark for 48 years, said: "A safe and decent transport system is one of the attributes of a civilised society.

    "New Labour took a gamble on Railtrack because they didn't have the political will to put things right and my husband paid with his life."

    Shadow transport secretary Theresa May told Today there "may well" be a need for a full public inquiry, if there was evidence Potters Bar was not a one-off incident.

    "I don't think in itself the issue is one about the use of contractors and sub-contractors... I think the issue is about the management of those contracts.

    "Obviously there are questions being raised about training of workers and so forth."

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    Crash victim Nina Bawden
    "I would like to see the railways nationalised"
    Shadow transport secretary Theresa May
    "What is important is making sure those working on the railways are doing so to proper standards"

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    See also:

    11 Jun 02 | England
    11 Jun 02 | Business
    28 May 02 | England
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