Track points 'cracked', Potters Bar inquest told

Track points near a station where a train derailed leaving seven people dead and more than 70 injured were "cracked" and "poorly" maintained, an inquest heard yesterday.

The 12.45pm service from King's Cross to King's Lynn, Norfolk, derailed when it ran over faulty points on the approach to the station at Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, on 10 May 2002. Ten months before the crash a workman was seen fixing a nearby points problem with a hammer and chisel, the inquest in Letchworth heard.

Jurors were told that the workman found a locking nut missing from a bolt on a set of points at Wood Green, north London, less than 15 miles from Potters Bar.

He did not replace the locking nut but dealt with the problem by striking the chisel along the thread of the bolt in an attempt to prevent the remaining nut working coming unscrewed, Paul McCarthy, who was a Railtrack production supervisor, said.

Mr McCarthy said he saw the workman, from Jarvis – the private firm Railtrack subcontracted to carry out maintenance work on tracks – use the hammer and chisel in August or September 2001.

Jarvis went into administration this year. Railtrack, which had responsibility for track maintenance, has since been succeeded by Network Rail. The inquest continues.