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UK rail inspections find further faults after fatal Potters Bar crash

FOUR SETS of points and one crossing failed tests ordered by UK's Railtrack a week after the Potters Bar rail crash on 10 May.

A programme of inspections to be carried out by Railtrack now extends to 3,000 switches and crossings across the country. Further random verification tests will be undertaken by the Her Majesty's Railways Inspectorate (HMRI).

Seven people died and scores were injured when a passenger train was derailed at points just south of Potters Bar station in Hertfordshire.

The points failed when nuts missing from two 'stretcher bars' led to excessive load on the front stretcher 'locking' bar causing it to break. This allowed the tapered switch rails to move independently, forcing the last carriage off the tracks as it passed across the points. .

Deputy chief inspector of Railways Dr Bob Smallwood told NCEI that the faults being uncovered elsewhere on the network were different to those at Potters Bar, although loose nuts had been found 'There were defects at five areas. The points at four of these were clipped [fixing them in one direction] and speed restrictions imposed, ' said Smallwood.

'There are around 600 to 700 temporary restrictions nationwide on the network because of maintenance issues. We are seeking the implementation of Railtrack Group Standards across the network, ' he added.

More details have emerged about the testing and inspection regime undergone by the seven year old Potters Bar points, designed for 20 years service.

Most of Jarvis' track team was taken on from Balfour Beatty which previously held the East Coast Main Line maintenance contract before losing it in April 2001.

Maintenance carried out by Balfour Beatty is the subject of a police and HSE investigation into the October 2000 Hatfield rail crash.

Jarvis said that on 1 May a three-strong team detected two nuts missing at the Potters Bar site. They replaced them without reporting the incident at the time. One man had 10 years experience, another three while the third was a trainee.

Asked why they had not reported it, the spokesman said: 'The men knew it was rare to them, but didn't know it was very rare [elsewhere]'. He said faults fixed on the spot were not recorded.

Railtrack said there was no requirement for Jarvis to report such incidents, or matters which the contractor fixes itself.

A visual inspection of the points 24 hours before the disaster did not indicate a fault with the nuts.

INFOPLUS

www. nceplus. co. uk/ magazine

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