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Network Rail and Jarvis to face prosecution over Potters Bar crash

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has today started criminal proceedings against Network Rail and Jarvis Rail Limited for breaches of health and safety law which caused the Potters Bar derailment.

The prosecutions follow the conclusion of the inquest and ORR’s investigation into the derailment of a West Anglia Great Northern express train at Potters Bar station in Hertfordshire on 10 May 2002. Seven people were killed, with many more seriously injured.

But the firms will not face manslaughter charges.

Network Rail Infrastructure Limited is facing a charge under section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA). This results from its failure, as infrastructure controller 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.

Jarvis Rail, which went into administration in March, is also facing a charge under section 3(1) of HSWA. This results from its failure, as infrastructure maintenance contractor for the relevant section of 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.

ORR’s decision to prosecute comes five years after the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was no realistic prospect of conviction for an offence of gross negligence manslaughter against any individual or corporation arising from the Potters Bar incident.

The inquest into the deaths at Potters Bar took place during June and July 2010; the jury returned seven verdicts of accidental death. Last month the CPS informed ORR that it had decided that there were no grounds for it to reconsider its decision of October 2005.

ORR director of rail safety Ian Prosser said the inquest verdict had allowed the regulator to decide that enforcement action should be brought.

“I have decided there is enough evidence, and it is in the public interest, to prosecute Network Rail and Jarvis Rail for serious health and safety breaches. For the sake of the families involved, we will do all we can to ensure the prosecutions proceed as quickly as possible.

“The railway today is as safe as it has ever been, but there can be no room for complacency. Where failings are found those at fault must be held to account – and the entire rail industry must continue to strive for improvements to ensure that public safety is never put at a similar risk again.”

The first appearance is due to take place at Watford Magistrates’ Court on 7 January 2011 at 11am. 

The charges

Network Rail Infrastructure Limited is facing one charge that, between 31 March 2001 and 11 May 2002, it failed to conduct its undertaking as the infrastructure controller for the national rail network in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that persons not in its employment who may be affected thereby were not exposed to risks to their safety, in that it failed to provide and implement suitable and sufficient training, standards, procedures, guidance or other specifications for the installation, maintenance and inspection of shallow-depth adjustable stretcher bar points.

Jarvis Rail Limited is facing one charge that, between 31 March 2001 and 11 May 2002, it failed to conduct its undertaking as infrastructure maintenance controller for the East Coast Main Line section of the national rail network in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that persons not in its employment who may be affected thereby were not exposed to risks to their safety, in that it failed to provide and implement suitable and sufficient training, standards, procedures, guidance or other specifications for the installation, maintenance and inspection of shallow-depth adjustable stretcher bar points.

Adjustable stretcher bars keep the moveable section of track at the correct width for the train’s wheels.

The decision to prosecute has been made in accordance with ORR’s Enforcement Policy Statement, the Enforcement Management Model and the Code for Crown Prosecutors. 

The maximum penalty the magistrates’ court can impose for each charge is a fine of £20,000. If the case is committed to the Crown Court the maximum penalty that may be imposed for each charge is an unlimited fine.

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