Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 11:38 UK

Anger at rail inquests decision

Grayrigg crash
A woman was killed when a Pendolino derailed at at Grayrigg, Cumbria

Families whose relatives were killed or injured in the Potters Bar and Grayrigg rail crashes say holding separate inquests is "intensely disappointing".

The government has ruled out holding a joint public inquiry into the crashes.

Seven people died and more than 70 were injured at Potters Bar in 2002. One woman was killed and 82 hurt at Grayrigg in 2007.

Lawyer Louise Christian said victims had been "ignored" and the government ruling may be taken to judicial review.

Relatives of the victims had been calling for joint public inquiry.

Ms Christian said the the "very long delay of two-and-a-half years by the government in making this decision has also contributed to the victims' suspicions that the government has never intended to take them seriously".

It's scandalous that it's taken years of campaigning to get a confirmation of full inquests
Bob Crow, RMT general secretary

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the Secretary of State Lord Adonis had decided "that two independent inquests will ensure complete public scrutiny of the Potters Bar and Grayrigg accidents".

The DfT said he believed the two inquests "will ensure that lessons are learned and acted upon and as such are as effective as a public inquiry".

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail union, said: "It's scandalous that it's taken years of campaigning to get a confirmation of full inquests... and the RMT will be holding the government to their word and demanding that they fix the earliest possible date for the inquests to begin.

"We have consistently called for a joint public inquiry into Potters Bar and Grayrigg which includes an examination of the safety impact of the privatisation and fragmentation of the rail industry."

Points failure

The Potters Bar accident happened when a West Anglia Great Northern train travelling from London to King's Lynn in Norfolk was derailed as it went over faulty points.

Six passengers died and a pedestrian was killed when debris fell on to the road beneath the track.

An accident report by the Health and Safety Executive in May 2003 blamed poor maintenance for the points failure, with earlier inspections not spotting defects in the points.

In October 2005, the Crown Prosecution Service said it had advised British Transport Police that there was no realistic prospect of conviction for an offence of gross negligence manslaughter against any individual or corporation.

An initial report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) in the Grayrigg crash blamed a faulty set of points.

A later inquiry by Network Rail, released in September last year, found systematic failures in track patrolling and management.

BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds said the hearings will be "Middleton" inquests.

This type of hearing investigates the broader circumstances of a death or deaths, as well as the immediate causes.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: "The tragedy at Grayrigg was caused by the failure of our infrastructure, something we were devastated to discover.

"Following a comprehensive and detailed industry investigation we made immediate changes to our maintenance regime.

"Today's announcement about Grayrigg and the earlier incident at Potters Bar - which occurred when Railtrack was responsible for the infrastructure - will hopefully give greater reassurance to everyone involved that lessons have been learned and changes made."

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20 Dec 07 |  Cumbria

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