'Rough ride' reported night before rail crash, inquest hears

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A rail manager who fielded a call from a worried passenger the night before a train crash sent workmen to check the wrong line after "assuming" that the man raising the alarm had been heading south not north, an inquest heard today.

Rail worker Terence Moore reported a "rough ride" 16 hours before seven people died when the 12.45pm London King's Cross to King's Lynn, Norfolk, train derailed when it hit faulty points at Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, on May 10 2002, the inquest in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, was told.

Mr Moore, a station announcer at Finsbury Park, north London, had been going home to Stevenage, Hertfordshire, when his train jolted "violently" as it crossed points south of Potters Bar station on May 9 - and he called the signal box at King's Cross to air his concerns, a jury heard.

But David Castle, then duty manager in the King's Cross signal box, told jurors today how he "assumed" that Mr Moore was travelling to work in London and therefore asked for checks on the southbound line.

Jurors heard that Mr Moore had given the code number of the train he was on and told Mr Castle: "I just came back. Coming from work. Coming home on 1C39."

He gave details of the location of the "rough ride" and told Mr Castle: "The train seems to bounce ... it could be lethal."

Mr Castle said he not "picked up" what Mr Moore was saying about "coming from work" and had not checked to see which direction train number 1C39 was heading.

He told jurors: "I assumed it was travelling south."

Mr Castle said initially Mr Moore had passed on his concerns to a supervisor at Finsbury Park. That supervisor had made the first call to the King's Cross signal box from Finsbury Park - before Mr Moore called to offer more detail.

He said more weight was given to "rough ride" reports from drivers and no drivers had reported problems at Potters Bar on May 9.

Mr Castle stressed that calls from passengers were not "disregarded".

Jurors were told that Mr Castle had been a rail worker since leaving school in 1966, had been trained in handling such calls and taught about the importance of recording information accurately and about the importance of not making assumptions.

Earlier this week, the inquest heard that Mr Moore first raised the alarm with a ticket seller at Stevenage station after getting off the train on May 9.

He told jurors how he gave ticket seller Derek Jackson the "exact location" of the "jolting" and added "report it".

But Mr Jackson told jurors that the conversation "slipped his mind".

Mr Moore said he had not been satisfied by Mr Jackson's "I will try to (report it) if I can" response.

He said he had therefore contacted his supervisor at Finsbury Park, who called to report the incident, before ringing the King's Cross signal box himself.

Another worried passenger was also trying to raise the alarm in the hours before the crash, jurors have been told.

Company boss Peter Prime said he was on his way to Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, late on May 9 when his train "lurched" near Potters Bar.

Mr Prime said he told a train buffet car steward of his concerns minutes after the "lurch", then made two calls the following morning in an attempt to alert train operators.

Six passengers - Austen Kark, 75, of Islington, north London; Emma Knights, 29, of Knapwell, Cambridgeshire; Chia Hsin Lin, 29, of Tower Hamlets, east London; Chia Chin Wu, 30, of Taipei, Taiwan; Alexander Ogunwusi, 42, of Upper Tulse Hill, south London, and Jonael Schickler, 25, of Forest Row, East Sussex - plus pedestrian Agnes Quinlivan, 80, of South Mimms, Hertfordshire, died in the crash and more than 70 people were hurt.

The hearing continues and is expected to end later this summer.