Health and safety charge over Potters Bar tragedy dropped

The scene at Potters Bar station in May 2002 after a train derailed.
The scene at Potters Bar station in May 2002 after a train derailed.
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A health and safety charge against rail maintenance company Jarvis over the 2002 Potters Bar train crash has been dropped.

Six passengers and a pedestrian were killed in the Hertfordshire crash when a London to King’s Lynn train derailed over a faulty set of points.

Last November, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) brought a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act against Jarvis, which was the maintenance contractor at Potters Bar at the time and which is now in administration.

Yesterday the ORR said: “While there remains sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction of Jarvis, a prosecution would no longer be in the public interest.”

Overall responsibility for rail maintenance at the time of the crash on May 10 2002 lay with Railtrack, which was replaced by Network Rail (NR) later in 2002.

When charging Jarvis last autumn, the ORR also bought a similar charge against NR, which pleaded guilty to the charge at Watford Magistrates’ Court last month.

A provisional date for sentencing should be set later this month.

Giving reasons for its decision not to proceed with the prosecution of Jarvis, the ORR cited the changed nature of any future trial. Jarvis’s administrators have said they would take no part in any proceedings, while NR has pleaded guilty.

Under these circumstances, continuing proceedings against Jarvis would mean that any trial would be of Jarvis alone and it would be lengthy and costly, and if Jarvis was convicted would only lead to a small fine.

Also, members of the victims’ families expressed the view that there was little value in continuing the prosecution.

One of those killed in the crash was Austen Kark, 75, who was travelling with his wife, author Nina Bawden, now 86, who was badly injured.

Their daughter Perdita Kark said yesterday: “We have had to battle and battle and battle to get this far. Jarvis effectively no longer exists.”

“What’s important now is that Network Rail ensures the railways are as safe as they can be.”