Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Rail firms to be prosecuted over Potters Bar crash

Just read that Network Rail and Jarvis are to be prosecuted for the Potters Bar rail crash in 2002. As a signalling professional, I guess I should stick my two penn'rth in...

At the time of the crash, I had been working on the railway for nearly a year. I remember making emergency checks on the points in my area, even though we knew there was no possibility of something like that happening to us. Knowing points as I now do, it's obvious that there was a failure of maintenance on the set of points in question - after proper maintenance, carried out every six weeks maximum, there should be no way that any nuts should come loose on a stretcher bar.

Faulting and maintenance in those days was carried out by private companies - Jarvis in the case of the Potters Bar section, Balfour Beatty in my area. There was no contact between maintenance companies, and only limited contact, I felt, with Network Rail above us. Network Rail had only recently come into existence, and the situation was such that there was little or no co-ordination across the industry.

I don't really want to comment on the rights and wrongs of the investigation - obviously the length of time that it's taken to get to this stage for the families of the deceased is unacceptable, and there is a need for private companies to be taken to task for accidents that happen on their watch, regardless of how much blame is to be apportioned.

What I consider most, though, is how the signalling and P-way staff who were responsible for 2182A's must feel, both at the time and now. According to Jarvis, the points were inspected the day before the accident. It must be a hell of a burden to bear, knowing that 7 people died, as a result of a failure of a set of points you inspected.

Rail professionals, like myself, take on a lot of responsibility for public safety, often with little public recognition. I don't know how I would be able to handle thinking that I had been to blame for someone's death.

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