Jarvis threatens legal action against rail magazine

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The Independent Online

Engineering and public services group Jarvis is threatening legal action against a specialist rail magazine after the company's stock market value slumped almost £70m.

The free-fall in the share price followed allegations in several publications that the company had falsified rail maintenance documents.

Jarvis, the company at the centre of the Potter's Bar rail disaster, has enlistedlibel specialists Carter Ruck, in its attempt to win redress.

Nigel Harris, managing editor of Rail magazine and author of the report in question, confirmed Emap, publisher of the journal, was in talks with Jarvis over an alleged libel.

The allegations concern the magazine's coverage of work done by Jarvis on the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

Part of the route between Macclesfield and Stoke-on-Trent opened a week late after an 18-week shutdown.

After an inspection of the work, the rail infrastructure organisation Network Rail called for 20mph speed limits to be imposed at 23 locations. Inspectors had found that new track had not been properly "stressed'' to deal with falling autumn temperatures.

Jarvis issued a statement acknowledging that some sections of the line had to be "re-stressed'' after "localised anomalies'' were discovered.

The company apologised and refuted any suggestion that documents had been "deliberately falsified''. It added: "Any Jarvis employee who falsified documentation could expect to be dismissed immediately and possibly prosecuted.''

While the company has relinquished its rail maintenance contracts, it has been determined to keep work to "enhance'' the network. It is estimated that the rail business makes up half of its turnover.

The reputation of Jarvis came under fire over the fatal derailment at Potter's Bar on 10 May last year. It maintained the track.

But the incident at London's Kings Cross station on 16 September put paid to its interest in rail maintenance, when an express was derailed because a length of track was missing after overnight repairs by Jarvis.