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Public inquiry into rail disasters ruled out

The Government today ruled out a public inquiry into the 2002 Potters Bar rail crash which claimed seven lives, and the 2007 Grayrigg derailment in which an elderly passenger was killed.

Instead, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis announced that the public interest was "best served" by holding two independent inquests into the disasters.

The decision is sure to anger relatives of the victims and rail unions which have long pressed for a joint public inquiry into the crashes which were both caused by faulty sets of points.

Lord Adonis said today: "I have decided that the public interest is best served by the continuation of the two inquests that have begun into the deaths resulting from the rail accidents at Potters Bar and at Grayrigg.

"I have therefore decided not to convene a public inquiry into the accidents, either individually or jointly."

He went on: "I regret the length of time taken to reach this point, and the anxiety that this may have caused to those who have lost loved ones. However, the chronology of events and the issues are complex and I considered it important to ensure that my decision regarding the next steps is the right one.

"Having considered the material before me, I am satisfied that separate inquests will allow for appropriate further independent investigations of the accidents, with the bereaved and injured able to participate and express their views and concerns in a transparent forum open to public scrutiny.

"Although the conduct of the inquests is a matter for the coroners, the inquests will be capable of examining the relevant issues raised by the accidents, including those that are common to both."

Keith Norman, leader of the train drivers union Aslef said: "It is astonishing that the Government is not prepared to give the maximum transparency to what happened so that we can be completely assured that incidents like this will never happen again."

Writer Nina Bawden, 84, whose husband Austen Kark was killed in the Potters Bar crash, said today: "We have worked hard for a public inquiry and I am disappointed we are not going to get one.

"The Government could have had the decency of informing us first about today's news."

Ms Bawden, who was badly injured in the May 2002 accident, went on: "The reopening of the Potters Bar inquest is at least something. I hope everything will come out.

"I want them to come to a sensible conclusion and make the railways as safe as possible."