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February 21, 2011

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Network Rail to admit safety failings over Potters Bar rail crash

Network Rail is to plead guilty to health and safety failings in relation to the Potters Bar crash, in which seven people died in 2002.

The company indicated its plea intention at a hearing earlier today (21 February) at Watford Magistrates’ Court.  It is being prosecuted by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) together with maintenance contractor Jarvis over the derailment, which resulted from a points failure. An inquest held last year determined various other contributory factors, including failures of inspection and/or maintenance of the points.

In a statement, Network Rail said today’s railway is “almost unrecognisable” since the days of Railtrack, whose obligations and liabilities it assumed in October 2002 – five months after the incident.

The statement continued: “Private contractors are no longer in control of the day-to-day maintenance of the nation’s rail infrastructure. All of the recommendations made by both the industry’s own formal inquiry and the health and safety investigation have been carried out. Today, the railways are safer than they have ever been, but 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.”

Network Rail faces a charge under section 3(1) of the HSWA 1974, resulting from its failure to provide and implement suitable and sufficient training, standards, procedures and guidance for the installation, maintenance and inspection of adjustable stretcher bars. The bars keep the moveable section of track at the correct width for the train’s wheels.€

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