Network Rail apology for Potters Bar deaths

Network Rail (NR) said it was "truly sorry" for the Potters Bar rail crash after the company was fined £3 million today over the 2002 disaster which claimed seven lives.





The rail infrastructure company had pleaded guilty at St Albans Crown Court in Hertfordshire to breaching health and safety regulations which led to a high-speed train derailing at a faulty set of points.



NR's predecessor Railtrack was the infrastructure company in charge at the time of the crash but NR has shouldered the responsibility.



Sentencing NR today, Judge Andrew Bright said the crash of the London to King's Lynn train just outside Potters Bar station just before 1pm on May 10, 2002 was a "catastrophic accident".



He said the lives of the bereaved families had been devastated and that Railtrack's procedures and standards were "seriously inadequate".



Judge Bright and some of the bereaved families highlighted the fact that, as NR is a not-for-dividend company with no shareholders, any fine for NR would have to be paid from what the judge said was "an income which is substantially derived from public funds".



Perdita Kark, the daughter of Austen Kark, one of the passengers who died in the crash: said: "It's offensive that I pay a fine for something that killed my father."



Train drivers' union Aslef said it was "ludicrous that managers responsible for rail safety walked away unscathed while the public picks up a £3 million bill".



NR said it accepted the fine "as we accept the liabilities inherited from Railtrack".



The company added: "We say again today that we are truly sorry."



The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), which brought the case against NR under the Health and Safety at Work Act, said that safety on the railways had improved but could be strengthened further.



Pat Smith, 63, whose mother Agnes Quinlivan, 80, was killed by falling debris as she walked close to Potters Bar station, said: "I just hope that other families in the future are not treated as shabbily as we were by the rail companies, and I include Network Rail in that."



Maintenance company Jarvis - which was responsible for the section of track at Potters Bar, but is now in administration - also faced charges but the ORR decided in March not to proceed as the prosecution was "no longer in the public interest".



Six passengers on the West Anglia Great Northern express - Mr Kark, Emma Knights, Jonael Schickler, Alexander Ogunwusi, Chia Hsin Lin and Chia Chin Wu - were killed.



They were in the train's fourth carriage which became airborne after derailing and ended up getting wedged under the canopy of the station.



NR admitted failings over the installation, maintenance and inspection of adjustable stretcher bars which keep a moveable section of a track at the correct width for train wheels.



Judge Bright said Railtrack had had no specific guidelines for installing, maintaining and inspecting the kind of points that failed at Potters Bar.



Serious faults with the points "could and should have been identified sooner", he added.



The company's failures put the travelling public and train crews at the risk of serious injury, the judge said.



Assessing how far up the Railtrack organisation the failings went, Judge Bright said that although there were very serious failings by Jarvis, "overall responsibility for the breach of duty lay with Railtrack at senior management level and their failures were significant and extensive".



The judge said there were individuals who bore responsibility for the maintenance failures.



He added: "I do not doubt that those who lost loved ones in the crash might have hoped to see those individuals held to account for their failure.



"However, they are not before the court and it's Network Rail Infrastructure who fall to be sentenced for an offence committed by Railtrack plc."



Judge Bright said that, although NR was making progress on all 10 points of concern raised by the judge presiding over last year's inquest into the deaths, the ORR considered that none of them had yet been fully implemented.



Ms Kark, whose mother, author Nina Bawden, now 86, was badly injured in the crash, said: "Directors of the two companies should have been in the dock as individuals and they should have paid out of their own purses."



ORR rail safety director Ian Prosser said: "Today marks the end of a long process in which we have sought to gain a sense of justice for the families of the victims of the Potters Bar derailment."



He added that it was clear the rail industry still had "significant work to do" on safety.



Mrs Smith said: "There has been total disregard for the bereaved families. We have finally got our apology from NR. They should have put their hands up right away. That would have eased our pain."



Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said: "It is a scandal that those really responsible have got away with it."



Aslef general secretary Keith Norman said: "Surely those individuals responsible should be punished - not the travelling public."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine