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Coroner questions Potters Bar rail crash inquiry decision

A coroner today became the latest person to question the decision not to hold a public inquiry into the Potters Bar train crash.
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced yesterday that there would not be a public inquiry, angering those bereaved by the May 2002 derailment. He said that a full inquest would be held.

Today Hertfordshire coroner Edward Thomas, issued a statement which said: 'The coroner will make arrangements for the holding of a full inquest as no public inquiry has been ordered.

'The coroner has made it clear, however, that in his view the current powers of a coroner, such as they are, may not be sufficient to fulfil the requirements of the necessary public investigation into this awful tragedy.'

Hertfordshire County Council said Mr Thomas did not wish to comment further. An inquest is unlikely to be held before the end of next year, and is expected to last from three to six months.

Mr Darling said yesterday that he did not think an inquiry was necessary, appropriate or would shed any more light on the crash, which was caused by faulty points.

Author Nina Bawden, whose husband Austen Kark, 75, died in the accident, said yesterday it was 'a disgrace' that there would be no inquiry and she was 'shocked and appalled'.

Six passengers and a passer-by were killed in the accident when a London to Kings Lynn train derailed just before Potters Bar station in Hertfordshire after passing over a defective set of points.

Mr Darling said three investigations had already taken place into the crash and safety recommendations had been acted on.

He went on: 'I do not therefore believe, on legal or general policy grounds, that it is necessary or appropriate to hold an inquiry in this case, or that such an inquiry would reveal more information on the cause of the accident than is already available.'

An HSE report into the crash said poor maintenance led to the points failure which caused the derailment. Nuts were loose on the points, which meant the West Anglia Great Northern line train came off the tracks.

Ten days after the crash, Jarvis - the company responsible for maintenance on that section of track - said sabotage could not be ruled out. But the HSE said it had found no evidence of sabotage or deliberate unauthorised interference with the points.

In October, the Crown Prosecution Service ruled out criminal charges in relation to individuals or corporation for gross negligence manslaughter in relation to the tragedy.

Earlier this week, the CPS said no charges would be brought against individuals over the 1999 Paddington rail crash which claimed 31 lives. The CPS said it intended to prosecute Network Rail - formerly Railtrack - under the Health at Safety at Work Act over Paddington.

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