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The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"It's all questions and few answers"
Inspector Phil Trendall of British Transport Police
"It is important... that we start off looking at every possible cause"
Association of Train Operating Companies George Muir
"This is really dreadful"

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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Points 'failed' in fatal train crash

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
Mr Byers reassured commuters "rail travel is still safe"

Crash investigators say a faulty set of points caused the Potters Bar rail crash which killed seven people.

The BBC has learned the discovery has led to a nationwide inspection of up to 120 sets of points around the Railtrack network, although the company has denied that many are involved.

Senior Railtrack sources have described the move as a routine check but confirmed that investigators did not believe the train came off the track because of a broken rail.

Dr Alan Sefton, acting Chief Inspector of Railways, told the BBC: "We are already becoming pretty clear on the initial cause of the crash - the fact that the points did fail under this train."

And BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds says that, according to sources, the bolts holding two sections of rail together near the points were "not as they should be".

The news comes as Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, on a visit to the site, reassured the public that rail travel was "still one of the safest forms of transport".

Potters Bar rail crash
The rear carriage flipped across two platforms
Potters Bar crash
  • Seven people died
  • Five are still critically injured
  • Investigation teams are combing the scene
  • The accident happened just before 1300 BST on Friday when the rear carriage of a WAGN train derailed and flipped across two platforms before wedging under the canopy of the Hertfordshire station's roof.

    Police have confirmed that the former head of the BBC World Service, Austen Kark, was among the seven killed in the disaster.

    Eighty-year-old Agnes Quinlivan - a great-grandmother of two and grandmother of eight from Potters Bar - has also been confirmed dead.

    They further confirmed a 42-year-old man from south west London died from his injuries at Barnet General Hospital and a 25-year-old man from east Sussex, died at the scene.

    Other victims were a 29-year-old woman from east London who died at the scene and a 29-year-old woman from Cambridgeshire, who also died at the scene.

    Police are still trying to identify the seventh victim.


    Investigators spent much of Saturday concentrating on the set of points that the train passed at high speed before the rear carriage came off the track.

    An interim report into the crash is expected "within days", although an interim briefing is due at 1830 BST on Saturday.

    Mr Byers said "everything is being done" to get to the bottom of the tragedy.

    "Everyone who can see the scenes behind me feel a great sense of shock about what has happened," he added.

    Prince Charles visiting survivors in hospital
    Charles said his "heart stood still" when he heard

    "It is going to be very important to find out the facts of this incident and I have said to those responsible I want a report as soon as possible to let passengers and the public know exactly what happened.

    "It's very difficult in a situation like this to say that the network is safe but if you compare the network to other forms of travel it is one of the safest forms."

    A team of 40 British Transport Police officers - many veterans of previous rail crashes - have been helping with the search and looking for personal belongings of passengers.

    Meanwhile, Prince Charles has visited survivors of the crash in Barnet General Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.


    He said: "I suspect like many other people my heart stood still, then it went out to all the families and loved ones who have lost their relatives in this terrible accident," he said.

    Five people are still critically injured.

    Driver Andy Gibson has been praised for the way he acted, both at the controls and in helping stricken passengers.

    The train was the 1245 WAGN service from King's Cross, London, to King's Lynn in Norfolk, and was not due to stop at Potters Bar.

    The crash site remains sealed off but arrangements are being made to allow relatives of those who died in the crash to lay flowers on the track.

    Emergency information phone number: 0845 944 1551. For national rail inquiries call 08457 48 49 50.