Nine years on from the Potters Bar rail crash, which killed seven people, Network Rail has finally admitted health and safety failures—but still no one will be prosecuted for the disaster.
The deaths are an indictment of rail privatisation. And the length of time that it has taken to get this far is an indictment of the last Labour government and the justice system.
The inquest into the Potters Bar rail crash last year found that unsafe points outside the Hertfordshire station were to blame for the incident.
Jarvis, the private contractor then responsible for maintaining the rails, originally claimed sabotage was to blame for the accident.
But Health and Safety Executive reports identified poor maintenance as the key issue.
Jarvis later admitted joint liability for the crash with Network Rail.
Jarvis went bust last year, while Network Rail replaced the Railtrack consortium of private firms, which was in charge of the railways, in 2002. The company will receive a fine next month.
Many of the victims’ families are angry that the process has taken nine years.
Louise Christian, a solicitor representing some of the families, said, “The families had to go though an awful ordeal, and what still worries them is whether the safety concerns have been properly addressed.
“This is now a prosecution that can only result in a fine. There’s a query whether that will bring about any real accountability, given that Network Rail is a not-for-profit company.”
A Network Rail spokesperson claimed, “The railway today is almost unrecognisable since the days of Railtrack and the Potters Bar tragedy.”
But after the inquest last year, the coroner, Michael Findlay Baker QC, warned that there was a continued risk to passengers’ safety across the network.
Speaking after Network Rail admitted its guilt, Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT transport union, said, “This should stop those who are arguing for re-privatisation to create a Railtrack Mark Two.
“We must not forget a dash for profits and cutting corners led to Potters Bar.”
The Office of Rail Regulation is now considering whether to continue prosecutions against Jarvis.
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