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Potters Bar

Background and investigation

On 10 May 2002, the rear coach of a four coach passenger train travelling from Kings Cross to Kings Lynn derailed after passing over a set of points just outside Potters Bar station. The derailed coach became detached and slewed sideways. It slid along the track, passed over a bridge and came to rest on its side, wedged under the station canopy and bridging adjacent platforms. Seven people were killed and over 70 people were injured.

Immediately following the incident the Health and Safety Commission set up an independent Investigation Board under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA). This Board produced three reports into the incident, which were published by the HSE. The second and third of these reports included recommendations for improving safety on the railways.

ORR became responsible for the Investigation Board in April 2006 after taking over from HSE as the health and safety regulator for the rail industry. The Investigation Board was disbanded in June 2008 following ORR's closure of all outstanding recommendations (see summary document below).

On 17 October 2005, following the British Transport Police’s criminal investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that there was not a realistic prospect of conviction of an offence of gross negligence manslaughter in relation to the Potters Bar train derailment. Following that decision primacy for the criminal investigation passed to HSE, before passing to ORR in April 2006.

Inquest

Following the derailment at Grayrigg on 23 February 2007, the inquest into the deaths of those who died at Potters Bar was adjourned pending the Secretary of State for Transport's decision as to whether a public inquiry or joint inquest into both incidents should take place.

The Secretary of State announced on 19 June 2009 that he had decided that separate inquests into both incidents - rather than a joint public inquiry or inquest - should take place.

The Potters Bar inquest was held in June and July 2010, with the jury returning seven verdicts of accidental death. Further details, including the transcripts of evidence, can be found on the Potters Bar Inquest website.

Following the inquest the Assistant Deputy Coroner wrote to Network Rail and the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) under the provisions of rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1984. The Assistant Deputy Coroner raised ten points of concern with Network Rail and one point of concern with ATOC.

Both Network Rail and ATOC responded to the Assistant Deputy Coroner and the actions they propose to take to address the points of concern are being monitored by ORR. ORR will report progress to the Assistant Deputy Coroner.

Prosecution

On 10 November 2010 – and following the CPS’s review of the evidence arising from the inquest - ORR started criminal proceedings against Network Rail Infrastructure Limited and Jarvis Rail Limited for breaches of health and safety law that caused the Potters Bar derailment. Both companies faced charges under section 3(1) of the HSWA.

These resulted from their failures - as infrastructure controller and infrastructure maintenance contractor respectively for the national rail network - to provide and implement suitable and sufficient training, standards, procedures and guidance for the installation, maintenance and inspection of adjustable stretcher bars.

On 21 February 2011 Network Rail Infrastructure Limited pleaded guilty to the charge it faced under section 3(1) of HSWA. Following this guilty plea, ORR decided in March 2011 that it was no longer in the public interest to continue the prosecution against Jarvis, which had entered into administration in March 2010. The reasons for this decision are outlined in the summary decision below. 

On 13 May 2011 at St Albans Crown Court Network Rail Infrastructure Limited was fined £3 million and ordered to pay costs of £150,000.

Last updated: 7 July 2011

Documents