Call for joint rail crash inquiry
The Guardian: February 28, 2007
The presence of defective points in last week's rail crash at Grayrigg in Cumbria and the Potters Bar derailment could lead to a joint public inquiry.
A high court judge holding the inquest into the deaths of seven people at Potters Bar five years ago said yesterday the fact that both disasters involved points could not be ignored. Mr Justice Sullivan said he would write to the transport secretary, Douglas Alexander, asking whether investigations should proceed "by way of inquest or public inquiry or some other route". The decision would be the transport secretary's, he said as he adjourned the inquest until later this year.
In the past the transport secretary has ruled against a public inquiry into Potters Bar, but said he would reconsider if fresh evidence emerged. Mr Justice Sullivan said: "I don't think anyone expected such fresh evidence to emerge in the catastrophic form that it has."
Lawyers for the interested parties - including the Potters Bar bereaved, Network Rail, contractors Jarvis, the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR), safety authorities and the RMT union - agreed in principle with the judge's assessment.
Duncan Atkinson, for the ORR, cautioned the judge against making a "mirror image" analogy. There were "very real differences" between the maintenance regimes, he said.
James Eady, for the transport secretary, said Mr Alexander was "neutral" about a public inquiry or joint inquests, and nothing should be done until a decision on whether to bring criminal proceedings.