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Potters Bar sabotage theory "preposterous"

A private firm sub-contracted to carry out track maintenance put forward a “preposterous” sabotage theory after seven people died when a train hit faulty points and derailed, a lawyer representing victims’ families has told an inquest.

Jarvis’s suggestion that points at Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, had been tampered with prior to the crash in May 2002 was “wholly untenable”, John Hendy QC told the inquest into the accident.

Another lawyer suggested to inquest jurors that Jarvis had “put up” former Conservative Transport Minister Steven Norris - then one of the firm’s directors - to “make comments” to the media about the sabotage theory.

Jurors heard a recording of an interview Mr Norris gave to the BBC shortly after the crash in which he said there was “compelling evidence” that sabotage was “a very distinct possibility”.

Judge Michael Findlay Baker QC, who is presiding over the inquest, has told jurors that experts concluded that the “root cause” of the crash was the failure of a set of points south of Potters Bar station.

He said Railtrack - since succeeded by Network Rail - had primary responsibility for track and signals at the time of the crash.

Maintenance had been sub-contracted to Jarvis. The judge said Jarvis went into administration earlier this year.

Jurors heard today that Network Rail and Jarvis had accepted responsibility for the crash in 2004.

Noel Broadbent, director of compliance and standards at Jarvis in 2002, told the inquest that the firm had not been able to explain the “catastrophic” failure of points and had wanted to draw attention to the possibility that points had been “interfered with”.

Mr Hendy told him: “It was wholly untenable - a simply preposterous suggestion.”

Earlier, James Dingemans, who is asking questions on behalf of Judge Baker, asked Mr Broadbent:”Did the board decide Mr Norris should be put up to make comments to the media?”

Mr Broadbent said he had no knowledge of any such plan.

The inquest, being held in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, is expected to end later this summer.

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