Hoon under fire for stalled crash inquiry

Potters Bar families turn on Transport Secretary as decision delayed once more

Families of the Potters Bar rail crash victims have criticised Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, for delaying his decision over whether to grant a public inquiry into the accident.

Six years after the crash in which seven people were killed and 76 injured, a full government investigation has yet to be completed.

The London-to-Kings Lynn train derailed as it approached the Hertfordshire station in May 2002, catapulting a carriage on to the platform. A faulty set of points was blamed after bolts that were meant to secure them were found nearby.

The inquest into Potters Bar was put on hold in February 2007 after a similar crash involving faulty points in Grayrigg, Cumbria. An elderly woman died and 86 people were injured.

After the Grayrigg crash, victims' families demanded that the Government order a joint public inquiry. The coroner who held the inquest into Grayrigg, Mr Justice Sullivan, also backed a joint public inquiry.

However, Mr Hoon, who took over the transport portfolio last month, has refused to make a final decision. Instead, he has written to everyone affected by the crash, including rail companies and those who lost loved ones, to consult them on what should be done next.

"Letters have been sent to organisations and individuals who were affected by either accident and with whom the Department for Transport has previously had contact," Mr Hoon said. "I am also interested in the views of others directly involved in either accident."

Mr Hoon's letter has been painted unfavourably as a stalling tactic; and of being worded so as to lead to the conclusion that a costly joint public inquiry is not needed – a conclusion shared by the rail industry.

Louise Christian, a solicitor who represents several of those injured in the Potters Bar crash and has been involved in the fight for a public inquiry from the start, said it was time for Mr Hoon to make a decision on the issue.

"It is just another delaying tactic by the Government," she said. "Mr Hoon knows what the families of those affected want. They have said what they want for a long time. That is a joint public inquiry into Potters Bar and Grayrigg.

"This is not a time for Mr Hoon to be consulting on what to do next. It is time for him to make a decision. I am not hopeful we will get what we have wanted for so long. The Government has always been more willing to listen to the rail industry."

The Conservatives also accused Mr Hoon of dragging his feet. "It seems extraordinary that six years after the Potters Bar crash this government has failed to bring its investigation to a close," said Theresa Villiers, the shadow Transport Secretary. "This is really hard on those whose lives were devastated by the tragedy, making it even more difficult for them to move on from the incident. Rather than let this drag out indefinitely, the Secretary of State for Transport must now see the lessons are learnt and implemented."

Network Rail, responsible for maintaining Britain's rail infrastructure, said that it had received the letter from Mr Hoon and was considering its response.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before