A year on, relatives remember victims of Hatfield disaster

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The Independent Online

The bereaved and injured from the Hatfield rail disaster gathered to mark the anniversary with an emotional service yesterday.

A year to the day that Robert Alcorn, 37, Stephan Arthur, 47, Leslie Gray, 43, and Peter Monkhouse, 50, lost their lives, their families joined more than 400 others in remembrance.

The anger was as apparent as the grief, finding its target in Railtrack, which the Government announced last week would be turned into a "not-for-profit" organisation.

Audrey Arthur, speaking as she paid tribute to her son, Stephan, said: "This tragedy was caused by negligence and greed. Railtrack had known that the track was unsafe for two years, but continued to put costs and increasing profits above saving lives."

In a letter read to the congregation, Tony Blair said: "I know that nothing can undo what has happened, or take away the pain, grief, loss and shock that have touched many lives. No government can guarantee the absolute safety of any form of travel. But the steps we are taking and have pledged to take will go a long way to ensure railway travel is safer."

Afterwards, Christopher Garnett, the chief executive of GNER, who gave a reading during the service, said: "Hatfield should not have happened. Hatfield was bad management and I can understand the anger. We are determined to have a safe railway network."

Relatives gathered at the roadside overlooking the crash site at 12.23pm, the moment the GNER London to Leeds Intercity 225 express derailed, killing four and injuring 87. During the service at St Albans Cathedral, relatives lit candles in front of photographs of their loved ones.

After cracks were found in the rail at Hatfield, Railtrack began widespread track repairs. The safety moves, and severe floods, led to a near- breakdown of the rail network.

Interim Hatfield crash reports from the Health and Safety Executive and the rail industry's own railway safety group have criticised Railtrack for not replacing the track at Hatfield during maintenance.

* The National Audit Office, the Government's financial watchdog, said it would scrutinise the break-up of Railtrack and had not ruled out an inquiry into whether plans for a not-for-profit company gave taxpayers value for money.

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