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13 May 2011, 10:53
Network Rail have today (Friday May 13th) been fined three million pounds for safety failings which caused the Potters Bar rail crash which killed seven people and injured 76 others nine years ago.
Judge Andrew Bright QC said passing sentence on the company at St Albans crown court said "In my judgement, the most important principal to have in mind is the need to bring home the message to those who manage companies involved in maintaining our national rail net work that constant vigilance is required to ensure that accidents like the one at Potters Bar do not occur again."
As well as the fine the company was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £150,000.
Network Rail pleaded guilty to failing to ensure people were not exposed to risk to their safety. The crash was caused by unsafe points on the approach to Potters Bar station.
Railtrack were in control at the time of the derailment on May 10 2002, but their successors have accepted responsibility.
Jarvis were in charge of maintenance at the time but have since gone into administration and have not been prosecuted as they would have no resources to pay any fine, said prosecutor Nicholas Hilliard QC
He told St. Albans Crown Court that a West Anglia Great Northern Express train had left London for Kings Lynn in Norfolk with 150 people on board.
The four carriage train approached Potters Bar just before 1 pm and was supposed to speed through the station at almost 100 mph on the fast track.
But loose nuts on a set of points caused the last carriage to become disconnected.
"It collided with a bridge over Darkes Lane in Potters Bar and then the station itself. Six people were killed in the 4th carriage and Agnes Quinlivan was killed by debris from the bridge. Many others were injured," he said.
He listed those who had died and the effects on their families. They were aged between 25 and 76 and included Austen Kark, who was the managing director of the BBC's World Service. He was married to author, Nina Bawden, who was badly injured in the crash. She has been described as 'a broken lady' said Mr. Hilliard.
The prosecutor said: "It rapidly became clear that the cause of the derailment was due to points 2182A. They were found to have a number of serious faults.
"Points which failed so disastrously at Potters Bar were found to be in an unsatisfactory state elsewhere on the east bound line."
He said there had been no guidance on how tight the nuts should be tightened and staff were not equipped with torque wrenches.
"There was a lack of relevant technical knowledge by staff who were interviewed."
Mr. Hilliard said that prosecution had been delayed until after an inquest which concluded in July last year having identified ten 'points of concern'.
Prashant Popat QC for Network Rail said: "It is recognised that the derailment at Potters Bar was a catastrophic incident in which seven people sadly lost their lives and many more were injured.
"First and foremost Network Rail wishes to express it's genuine and deep remorse for the failures that contributed to the derailment with such tragic consequences. Although Network Rail did not exist at the time it bears the responsibility."
He said since the crash maintenance had been brought in-house, staff training had been drastically improved, and new style points had been designed.
Mr. Popat said further lessons had been learned from the inquest and all the issues raised were being addressed.
There have been no fatalities in the last three years, while the number of passengers had increased.
"This was not a case of cost cutting at the expense of safety or of previous warnings being ignored," he said.