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NETWORK RAIL FINED £3 MILLION OVER POTTERS BAR CRASH

Infrastructure controller procedures and guidance failed to secure safety   

Network Rail has been fined £3 million and ordered to pay costs of £150,000 following the prosecution brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for a health and safety offence which caused the Potters Bar derailment.

The fine brings to a close ORR’s criminal proceedings which arose from the derailment of a West Anglia Great Northern train at Potters Bar station in Hertfordshire on 10 May 2002. Seven people died many more were seriously injured in the crash.

Railtrack was responsible for running the rail infrastructure when the accident occurred.

Room for strenghnening of ‘safety culture’

At St Albans Crown Court on 13th May 2011 Network Rail was sentenced under the HSW Act 1974. The company failed to provide and implement suitable and sufficient standards, procedures and guidance for the installation, maintenance and inspection of adjustable stretcher bars. Network Rail pleaded guilty to the charge.

Director of rail safety at ORR, Ian Prosser, said:

“Today marks the end of a long process in which we have sought to gain a sense of justice for the families of the victims of the Potters Bar derailment.

It is welcome that Network Rail, as the successor to Railtrack, pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches demonstrating that, under its new management it is now an organisation willing to take responsibility and learn from past mistakes.

But there can be no room for complacency. The safety culture of the rail industry can be significantly strengthened. As long as the regulator continues to have to step in to enforce improvements or bring prosecutions where things have gone wrong – as we have done many times this year – then, despite progress, it is clear that the industry has significant work still to do.”

Network Rail confirmed that from the industry inquiry all 25 recommendations have been acted upon and closed out in addition to 24 that resulted from the HSE investigation. A spokesman said:

“This week marks the ninth anniversary of the terrible, tragic event at Potters Bar. We recognise for many that the sorrow remains and we should all pause and reflect as we remember those who lost their lives.

Network Rail has today been sentenced for failings that contributed to this accident and we accept the fine as we accept the liabilities inherited from Railtrack. We say again today that we are truly sorry.

Private contractors are no longer in control of the day-to-day maintenance of the nation’s rail infrastructure since Network Rail took this entire operation in-house in 2004. Today the railways are safer than they have ever been, yet our task remains to build on that record and always to learn any lessons we can to make it ever safer for passengers and those who work on the railway.”

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