Saturday, 31 July 2010


The Tories great white elephant, rail privatisation, was dealt another hammer blow yesterday when the official rail regulator, the Crown Prosecution Service and British transport police opted to reopen investigations into whether criminal proceedings could be brought over the deaths of seven people in the Potters Bar disaster eight years ago.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), the independent safety watchdog, said it was to look again at the crash. In October 2005, the CPS said no charges of manslaughter by gross negligence could be brought.

Today's announcement came after an inquest at Letchworth, Hertforshire, found the crash had been caused by unsafe points. As part of a litany of inadequacies resulting from the hotch -potch nature of privatisation.

A spokesman for the ORR said: "We will now proceed to determine whether any criminal proceedings for health and safety offences should be brought in accordance with the work related deaths protocol." That would include detailed discussions with prosecutors and police.

The protocol exists because the CPS can only prosecute in relation to serious criminal activity, such as manslaughter, while the ORR can prosecute for health and safety offences.

A CPS spokeswoman said: "We will be looking to see whether any evidence came out of the inquest which would require us to review the decision."

The coroner said he would file a report warning of continuing potential risks to travellers, and the Department of Transport said it would consider this carefully. Judge Michael Findlay Baker QC, criticised the "indefensible" length of time families of the victims had had to wait for inquest to be held, saying they were due an apology.

More than 70 people were injured when the 12.45 King's Cross to King's Lynn train came off the rails as it approached the station, where it was not due to stop, at about 1pm on 10 May 2002.

There had been inspection and/or maintenance failures in the period before the crash, the inquest jury concluded, after a seven-week hearing.

Six passengers who died were in the fourth carriage of the train, which became detached and airborne, while the seventh victim, who had been walking nearby, was hit by debris.

The train was travelling at a legal speed – 98mph – and the driver, Gordon Gibson, was cleared of any blame.

The inquest was investigating the deaths of passengers Austen Kark, Emma Knights, Jonael Schickler, Alexander Ogunwusi, Chia Hsin Lin and Chia Chin Wu, and the pedestrian, Agnes Quinlivan.

The coroner said he would file a report under Rule 43 of the 1984 Coroners' Rules, which allows coroners to express concern that circumstances continue to create a risk of other deaths.

"Whatever the causes, the passage of over eight years from the derailment to the conclusion of the hearing of the inquest is indefensible.

"The families are due a public apology, and as the current representative of the system whose abuse has led to this delay, I offer that apology. It feels wholly inadequate, but it is all that it is within my power to do. I hope a line may begin to be drawn, and a sad and lengthy chapter in many lives may be closed."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report released in May 2003 found that the points were poorly maintained, and this was the principal cause of the accident. The bolts that held the stretcher bars that keep the rails apart had come loose or gone missing, resulting in the points moving while the train passed over them. The points had been fully inspected on 1 May by a team working for the private railway maintenance firm Jarvis, and there had been a further visual inspection on 9 May the day before the crash, with no problems reported. However, that evening a rail worker was travelling on the line northbound and reported "lethal vibrations" on the track at Potters Bar whilst going over that same point on the track, point '2182A'. Jarvis employees did make an inspection of the points, but due to an inadequate incident reporting system, they were sent to the wrong end of the platform to check the track and points and did not find the 'loose nuts' that subsequently led to the accident.

Initially after the accident, Jarvis attempted to divert attention by claimed that the points' poor condition was due to sabotage of some sort, and that its maintenance was not to blame. However, no solid evidence of any sabotage has ever come to light. Furthermore, the HSE report found that other sets of points in the Potters Bar area showed similar (but not as serious) maintenance deficiencies, and the poor state of maintenance "probably arose from a failure to understand fully the design and safety requirements".

Further investigations by the HSE found that heavy and constant vibrations on the stretcher bars and their bolts caused them to in turn vibrate and oscillate until they literally fell off the bolt. This has since been replaced by a two-part locking nut instead of the main nut, and half-size locking nut to hold it in place

Bob Crow, the general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, described the delays as an absolute scandal, and said the verdict "confirms what we already knew – that this tragic loss of life at Potters Bar could have been avoided if safety rather than profits had been the priority on our railways back in May 2002.

"Basic failures of inspection and of maintenance, driven by the greed and fragmentation of rail privatisation, led us to Potters Bar. Those responsible for creating that lethal culture – the politicians and their business associates – will never share the pain of the victims of their gross mismanagement. They have escaped prosecution for their role in this avoidable disaster.

"Private contractors are no longer involved in the day-to-day maintenance of the nation's rail infrastructure as NR took this entire operation, involving some 15,000 people, in-house in 2004. All of the recommendations made by both the industry's own formal inquiry and the health and safety investigation have been actioned. Today, the railways are safer than they have ever been."

How well we all remember those days in the 1990s when John Major promised us all that a private railway would mean less subsidy and a better and more efficient service. The only thing we got more of were rail disasters in quick succession we got Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield and then Potters Bar. The service was widely known to have got worse, ticket prices rocketed and worst of all the private companies required a greater subsidy than British rail ever did.

The Potters Bar disaster is a damning indictment of the lunacy of the Tories drive toward private industry the last time round. God alone knows where that lunacy will lead us this time round.


  1. And of course there were never any accidents under British Rail and work gangs were never sent to the wrong places either.Privatisation wasn't perfect, but subsidising Bob Crow and his minions out of the taxpayers purse couldn't go on for much longer either. British rail was a crap service, old rolling stock, dirty running late and typical of all nationalised industries, run for the benefit of the unions, not the public. Personally I would hate to go back to those days.

  2. I agree with Quite Man that there is far too much rose-tinted visions of the state of UK rail under nationalisation.

    Where I disagree with QT is I won't fully rull out nationalisation again, as a possible future course, though the case would have to be made convincingly.

  3. But the subsidies have gone up not down QM. That's what really annoys me. Germany and Switzerland have proved that you can run private railways (although the Swiss still have a publicly owned national service as well as the fabulous lines owned by small companies operating narrow gauge, sometimes up mountains that we wouldn't try to drive a car).

    Why is it that our railways are dirty, unreliable, expensive to use and expensive not to use (highest fares in Europe and subsidies from the taxpayer), foul food and rude and badly trained staff?

    I remember being stuck in a taxi in rush hour traffic in Geneva trying to catch the Paris Express and saying to my Swiss friend that “perhaps the train (from Lausanne) will be late”. The taxi driver nearly crashed his car at the idea and my pal had to explain that I was a foreigner.

    And yet I made a (return) journey to Bradford not long ago, involving 5 trains, and each one of them was late (one by 2 hours and one by 1.5 hours): one had no buffet service, because they didn’t have enough staff to open in (not that I would have used it if they had paid me), and one had no toilet because it was blocked. (I did catch the Paris Express by ½ minute, and it pulled out of Geneva Cornavin as the station clock his 19 hrs; the buffet was magic the staff spoke 4 languages; the train arrived in Paris Gare de Lyon bang on 3 hours and 45 minutes later!)

    Of course the Swiss and Germans and the French and Japanese are not perfect but the British ones appear to be an excuse for large bonuses for the management and the devil take the hindmost when it comes to service.

    Privatization seems to me not to have worked well here. It was supposed to deliver a safer, cheaper, better value train service. It hasn’t.

    Mrs Thatcher was renowned above everything else for selling off the countries silver, like an broke aristo trying to keep the old pile going, but even she baulked at rail privatization.

  4. The road to hell is paved with Tory privatization as we (grey beards) remember being raped by the English conservatives is not an experience you ever forget or forgive....

    Anyway someone i know recently worked a saturday on network rail for a contractor 12 hours he got paid 700 pounds........not bad eh?

    privatization is something some pray for he would of got a lot more than 700 pounds

  5. Mr Mxyzptlk,

    Your a sad, pathetic wee man.

  6. Dean: Niko has a point. Thatcher used privatization money and oil money to change society in the 1980s.... do you think she made it better?

    Things were sold off and now are there not to provide a service but to give directors a big bonus and shareholders a lot of cash.

    She didn't paint it that way of course, nor did Major. It was to make them run more efficiently, but I'm not sure that there's a lot of evidence of that.

    Buses, trains, electricity/gas suppliers and, in England, water suppliers are crap at what they do.

    They have expanded into areas they know nothing about and the inefficiencies are legend. Try dealing with any of them. It’s enough to give you a heart attack. Staff in a call centre who don't know and don't care. “Your call is important to us.” Yeah, right.

    Competition was supposed to bring prices down. So why do we have the most expensive trains in Europe?

    Competition was supposed to make them more efficient, so why are there no stocks of gas, as there are in neighbouring countries, so that prices can be kept level?

    I think either Thatcher was naive or she was just plain lying. Hissing bloody Sid.

    Niko. If the bloody thicko Labour vote in Scotland would stop voting for a Tory government and vote SNP we could be away from this! When will you people see that whatever you vote, you get what the English tell you you will get. And that is invariably Tory. Tony Blair was a Tory dressed in a Labourish frock.

    So stop whinging and vote for your own country. Even if it means Iain Gray for president!

  7. QM: there were rail disasters during BRs days. There always will be when people are involved. But they rarely come in such quick succession: Ladbrook Grove 1999, Hatfield 2000, Potter Bar 2002. From the enactment of the 1993 railway Act to the present there have been 50 railway accidents. However, from 1976-1993 the corresponding 17 years under BR, there were only 35.
    BR was under funded that is why it was crap. The private railways are still crap and still need all that public funding. But this time it all goes into the pockets of shareholders etc.

  8. Not the case of rose tinted spectacles Dean, the private service is worse in every way. It expensive, crowded, late, dirty, there are a third more accidents and so on. All the things the Tories promised us have not happened but have in fact got worse.

  9. Tris,

    I was commenting on his determination to continue to fight the politics of the 1980s rather than any substantive point.

    I was born in 1989, this is all academic, the younger voters really get turned off by people like Mr Whatever bashing on about some historical event from 30+ years ago.

  10. Tris I will give you a laugh our privatisation was supposed to have been based on a successful Swedish model. But the Treasury moguls wanted to maximise opportunities to make profit. So they split it into loads of different parts that could then sub contract and so eventually nobody knew what they were doing and the result was three major disasters in a row. What a Great British achievement!

  11. Tris, Dean Mr MixedPickle: the funny thing is that David Cameron is over in India wanting to change it all back and re-industrialise. Talk about see-saw policies.

  12. Deano

    People like you said the same thing to Churchill during the 1930s.

  13. Mr Mxyzptlk,

    Appeasement? LOL I have been accused of many things, of being a 'Heathite Fabian', of being a 'Liberal' [among less polite ones] - but never a Chamberlainite! Cracker!

    You carry on fighting the General Election of 1983 if you want, maybe you can have a good chat with peter...

  14. Ah Munguin... the Swedish model? They messed it up good and proper. I've never been on a Swedish train I have to admit, but I'd be willing to bet they are not overcrowded; not late; not dirty; don't have inedible food at Dorchester prices (well, the Dorchester prices maybe) and not dangerous. No wonder Mr Winterton didn't like travelling third class on them when first class is disgusting by continental standards.

  15. Well yes, Dean, but history has a part to play in all these discussions, and just because you weren't born, doesn't make the point any less valid old buddy... ;-)

  16. I haven't been on a train for a few years now mainly because I find it quite impossible to read the many timetables provided. It's an art in itself and one which doesn't deserve much of my time.

    The next privatisation will be Scottish water. All politicians, bar the SNP, are just itching to get their hands on the gravy train.

  17. There's a great deal to be made out of water SR. I expect the business men just can't wait for teh profit margin they would be able to make out of our water which they could sell to England and, they could bottle and send to Japan to go with Scotch.... and all from a commodity that falls out of the sky on a daily basis.

    I hope teh government can resist the temptation to sell it, but if the SNP doesn't form the administration after next May I can imagine that Gray rubbing his hands together with glee.

    If it's sold look forward to water prices rocketing in one of the wettest countries in Europe.

    We must resist this. It was a disaster in England. As I understand it they used to meter it, so you paid for what you used... so people used less and that meant hygiene problems. Then they decided that they would flat rate it (I think my mate pays £5 a week even if he uses none) and the money goes into the trousers of the directors and share holders....

  18. For the record, I am against the privatisation of Scottish Water. I'd echo MacMillan in this matter, it would be a case of "selling the family silver". But do not misunderstand me, I am not objecting to the principal of individual ownership, shares and consumerism [I am a Conservative], but I am objecting to the notion that you can use the funds raised by the privatisation as if it were income. It isn't, nor is it sustainable.

    No to privatisation of SW if it is to be treated as a form of income to be spent on government programmes, supporting unsustainable state spending. It is the very worst type of living outwit ones means, and it's how the UK got into this mess in the first place.

  19. What else would you use the money for Dean?

  20. Tris,

    Sorry, but it is not a valid point to accuse Tories of being callous rightie b's as Mr Whatever routinely does given the contemporary facts.

    Yes Mrs T was tough, and ideologically extreme - but today is what matters and the polices we are implimenting. We have:

    Restored the pensions-to-earnings link,
    Shall raise the threshold before paying tax to £10,000 by end of parliament,
    will not freeze pay raises for anyone earning under £18,000 in public sector

    All that in under 6 months, now tell me again that we are cruel, tough, and still the "same old Tories" as 30 years ago [when incidently my political ancestors ended the pensions link, no being restored].

    Out of date, out of time, and rather pathetic to see the politics of 30+ years ago trump the reality of the New Politics of coalition, consensus and compromise.

  21. Tris,

    I wouldn't privatise Scot Water just to keep other govt big spends running on empty for a few more months...

  22. Dean. You have to understand that the last time we had a Tory government all we got was that kind of policy.

    Now we can't just take Mr Cameron's word that it has all changed.

    Mrs Thatcher did that dreadful thing to pensioners, as you said, having used their plight to highlight the terrible way that Labour had treated them in her election campaign.

    She got in and more or less immediately gave them a rise then took it back and more with her wickedness. People will have to wait until the Tories prove themselves before they trust them. Their record is not good.

    Maybe they have changed, maybe they have not. We never trust politicians... not any of them... to tell us the truth.

  23. I'm afraid the water sell off in England was another total fiasco of the Tories making.

  24. It all happened, all the mismanaged privatisatons, on Labour's watch. Pray the Tories can't do any worse (they hardly could). Pray their superior economic knowledge saves us from this this horrifying Labour legacy.

    But "Munguin": Discuss, eh?

    A better advert for the new (less murderous and disastrous) approach of this Coalition Government I could not imagine.

    It's all working pretty well in almost every rational person's view - apart from the die-hard zealot extremists like Monkey-Penguin. But twits like him are always, deservedly, in the minority, inevitably.

    But "Munguin"'s just another unreconstructed, diehard, zealot, pseudo-Labour, Scots-supremacist (racist) extremist, right?

    So noone actually needs to listen to him because he's so mixed up - and totally wrong.

    And noone does anyway.

    Comment is free...

  25. Denver: Thank you very much, yet again, for that insightful late night contribution. Yes indeed comment is free and I don’t like to delete them or prevent people from putting them up (even the rude, ranting ones). I’m going to adopt your Mary Poppins like approach and not explain anything to you, because as you say you are not listening.

  26. Denver: just one other small point. I’m intrigued by your constant references to me as a “monkey-penguin boy”. As I am older than you I assume your intending to be hurtful with that comment. I have to say that your insults might be more effective if I knew what you were talking about. So you will forgive me for not being quashed by that comment. Although of course, as usual, I won’t expect you to explain.

  27. Denver,

    While I certainly think Munguin lives too much of his political life in the past [and frequently tell him so], I hardly think you can call him racist. From his blogging he seems a very pleasant chap; a tad too leftwing for my patrician tastes mind ;) but there you have it.

    But finally, yes, we Tories are more econonmically literate than the unreconstructed Liebore Party.

  28. Thank Dean. I'm very sorry if I appear to blame the Tories for all the worlds Ills. But whatever way you look at it you cannot blame rail privatisation on a Labour conspiracy.

    I don't think I am a racist. Although exactly which race I am supposed to be against I'm not quite clear. I can hardly suppose that even using the widest definition possible Tories are in any way a race.

  29. Scottish Water will end up like Scottish Power. Owned by foreigners and used as a cash cow to keep the bills low in their own countries.
    Eckie should just stop now and refuse to do London's bidding.

  30. There are no grounds for privatisation of Scottish Water.

    It is enjoying high levels of public support - so it must be providing a decent service and reasonable prices.

    Indeed, the only rationale for selling SW would be to fund unsustainable state -side spending elswhere; and it is the height of folly to sell the family rembrants to maintain a standard of living above a family means.

    Now, to clarify, I remain a supporter of returning the means of production to private ownership, and the management away from the alternative state capitalism [a feature of total public ownership economies]. That said, in this case there are now grounds other than ruthless ideology to privatise SW.

    The SNP need to keep firm, and refuse the pressure to privatise [I only wish Annie Goldie would resign, and take her fetish for privatisation, Thatcher style, with her].

  31. I thought that the use of the name "Monkey-Penguin" was a sly suggestion that "Munguin" might simply be a contraction...albeit with a bit of liberty taken with the first vowel. Perhaps no insult was intended....although I might be wrong about that.

    And then again, maybe the play on the name "Munguin" was simply so obvious that everyone pretended not to notice it. Sort of a sly literary wink all around. And now I'm more the fool for bringing it up at all. This is all very complicated.

  32. Oh Danny... that's far too complicated for the likes of us poor Brits. The education system here doesn't run to thinking through all these complicated posibilities...

    I'm not entirely certain what Denverthen's getting at here. I sense some emnity.

  33. Dean said ...
    " it is the height of folly to sell the family rembrants to maintain a standard of living above a family means."

    Apart from the fact that Dean can't spell as usual I found this written by a commentator on his site with reference to the newRight selling off our valuable assets....

    " British Petroleum was privatised in stages in October 1979, September 1983 and November 1987; British Aerospace in January 1981 and 1985; the government share in British Sugar in July 1981; Cable and Wireless in November 1981; Amersham International and National Freight Corporation in February 1982; Britoil in November 1982 and August 1985; Associated British Ports in February 1983; Jaguar in July 1984; British Telecom in November 1984; the National Bus Company in October 1986; British Gas in December 1986; British Airways in February 1987; the Royal Ordnance in April 1987; Rolls-Royce in May 1987; the British Airports Authority in July 1987; the Rover Group in August 1988; British Steel in December 1988; the Regional Water Authorities in November 1989; Girobank in July 1990; and the National Grid in December 1990.
    Oh and British shipbuilders in 1983 ( not much shipbuilding now - apart from warships)

  34. Spanish Water,

    What is your point? That all industry ought to be nationalised?

  35. Deano

    ‘I remembered it happened in the 1980s’

    Wherever John Swinney’s axe falls, Geoff Earl knows it will not make a clean cut. The 53-year-old community psychiatric nurse from Edinburgh remembers the strain on public services in the 1980s, and how cuts in one part of the system affected other sectors.

    Today there are no convenient stands of fat, standalone projects calling out for the chop.

    Instead there are complex webs of interlinked and interdependent services between councils, health boards and justice services.

    Cuts will ripple through the public sector and throughout society as a whole. When unemployment rises, the NHS has to deal with the resulting decline in health. The workload in education and social work goes up as parental problems impact on children.

    If crime rises, the police feel the strain. Communities sink into poverty and neglect. Families resort to cheap, unhealthy foods, storing up problems for the next generation.

    And as strains build up within the NHS, the mental and physical health of its own staff declines – and on it spreads.

    “There’s a double whammy of having your own services cut back at a time when you’re being expected to do more,” says Earl. “We know at times like this there will be a large increase in mental health issues and that nurses suffer the same effect themselves because they’re under this extreme pressure.

    “There’s always a ripple effect,” he adds. “But my fear is it’s going to be a tidal wave, a tsunami, which could come over us before we can react to it.

    “I remember it happened in the 1980s, and we’re still seeing the effects. I’d hate to think we’re going back to that.”

    never forget......your life will depend on it

  36. Dean said " What is your point? That all industry ought to be nationalised? "

    No. We should keep our vital utilities in UK hands and that you should try and learn to spell before blogging. Typos are normal but basic lack of spelling is not acceptable.
    Thatcher sold off all of our vital utilities and people like you should be banned from commenting until you apologise for the New Right massacre of UK PLC.

  37. Spanish Water,

    "Thatcher sold off all our vital utilities"


    "You should be banned from commenting until you apologise for the New Right massacre of UK PLC"

    Free speech runs deep with you I see. Sorry, but I feel no urge to apologise for events and decisions taken before I were born.

    Tend not to believe in the hereditary guilt principle myself, unlike you it seems.

    "We should keep our vital utilities in UK hands"

    Agreed, in fact I have often called for the nationalisation of water, energy and rail across the entire UK.

  38. LOL Dean.

    Clearly Mr Spanish water believes that the sins of the father... or in this case the grandmother... etc.

    Talking of her, I see from the pic above that John Major has been left with the job of looking ater her. I see too that her poppy is bigger than his. She was prime minister for ever you know. Whilst he is a minor footnote in history.

    Actually apart from the privatization of rail, he didn't do THAT much that was THAT wrong from my dim and distant recollection, ...oh, apart from that incredibly Anglocentric view of Britian, born, I suppose of the fact that, unlike other Tories, he didn't even use Scotland for huntin', shootin' and fishin'.

  39. Spanish Water:

    I agree, but I think we should keep our utilities in Scottish hands!!

    I guess not everyone is brilliant at spelling.... My art teacher told me it was an artistic failing..... (the only artistic talent I ever showed unfortunately!!)

  40. Dean said
    " I feel no urge to apologise for events and decisions taken before I were born."

    Mmmmm. It's not a spelling problem after all. It's a thick person problem.

  41. Spanish Water,

    "Mmmmm. It's not a spelling problem after all. It's a thick person problem."

    Nice to see that you can insult when your argument fails.

    But, what the heck, I'll try one more time: do you accept the hereditary guilt principle? Your responses suggests so...