Potters Bar rail accidents

Potters Bar rail accidents

There have been at least two railway accidents in Potters Bar, a town in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, just north of Greater London. One occurred in 1946 and the other, better known, in 2002.


On 10 February 1946 a local passenger train travelling towards Kings Cross hit a set of buffers at Potters Bar station and the derailed carriages fouled the main line. Two express trains travelling in opposite directions then hit the wreckage. Two passengers were killed and 17 injured were taken to hospital. The driver was eventually held to blame but a signalman was found to have contributed to the accident by his changing a set of points as the train passed over them. [http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/MoT_Potters1946.pdf] [http://www.pbhistory.co.uk/transport/rail_crashes.html]


infobox UK rail accident
title= Potters Bar rail crash (2002)
date= 10 May 2002, 12:58 BST
location= Potters Bar, Hertfordshire
coordinates= coord|51.697|-0.194|region:GB_type:landmark|display=inline,title
line = East Coast Main Line
cause= Condition of points
trains= 1
pax= 151
deaths= 7
injuries= over 70

On 10 May 2002, a railway accident occurred when a northbound train derailed at high speed, killing seven and seriously injuring another eleven. Another 70 were also injured. Part of the train ended up wedged between the station platforms and building structures.


A West Anglia Great Northern train service left King's Cross station at 12:45 bound for King's Lynn in Norfolk, via Cambridge. At 12:55, travelling at 97mph, the four-car Class 365 electric multiple unit (unit number: 365526) crossed over a set of points '2182A' just south of Potters Bar railway station. As the final coach travelled over the points, they failed, causing the rear wheels of the carriage to travel onto the adjacent line and ultimately derail, flipping it into the air. The momentum carried the carriage into the station, where one end of the carriage struck a bridge parapet, sending debris onto the road below. It then mounted and slid along the platform before coming to rest under the platform canopy at 45 degrees. The front three coaches remained upright, and came to a stop to the north of the station.

Six of the victims were travelling on board the train, while a seventh, Agnes Quinlivan, was killed by masonry falling from the bridge over Darkes Lane.


The Health and Safety Executive report released in May 2003 found that the points were poorly maintained, and this was the principal cause of the accident. [cite web|url=http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/incident-pottersbar-may03progrep.pdf|title=Train derailment at Potters Bar 10 May 2002 - A progress report by the HSE Investigation Board|publisher=Health & Safety Executive|year=2003|month=May] The bolts that held the stretcher bars that keep the rails apart had become loose or 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 insufficient Incident reporting system, they were sent to the wrong end of the platform to check the track and points - subsequently not finding the 'loose nuts' which would later lead to the accident.

Initially after the accident, Jarvis 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.

This is also the believed cause of the Grayrigg rail crash.


A Taiwan-born, Hong Kong news broadcaster Liu Hairuo (劉海若, Tanya Liu) was seriously injured and fell into deep coma during the crash, while her friends Lin Chia-hsin (former China Television reporter) and Wu Chia-Ching (a TVBS reporter) died. Liu was sent back to Asia and treated by a group of Beijing doctors, and recovered two months later. [cite web|url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/03/21/nbar21.xml&sSheet=/news/|title=Potters Bar crash survivor makes miraculous recovery|publisher=Daily Telegraph|date=2004-03-20]

The tragedy sparked a debate about whether private maintenance firms were paying too little attention to training and safety. In 2003 Network Rail announced it was taking all track maintenance in-house, ending the use of private contractors except for large-scale renewal or development projects. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3209609.stm|title=Network Rail takes repairs in-house|publisher=BBC News|date=2003-10-24]

On 28 April 2004 Jarvis sent a letter to the victims' families, admitting liability for the accident. The company said that it would formally accept "legally justified claims" after making a financial provision of £3,000,000. [cite web|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/pottersbar/story/0,,1204985,00.html|title=Jarvis admits liability for Potters Bar crash
publisher=The Guardian|date=2004-04-28

In the letter Kevin Hyde, chief executive, wrote:

In the aftermath of the crash, when Jarvis was under great pressure to explain itself, we were drawn into a debate about the possible causes of the crash. On behalf of the company and my colleagues, I would like to apologise for the hurt and anger our actions in responding caused.

List of the victims

* Austen Kark, 75 (his wife, writer Nina Bawden, was badly injured)
* Emma Knights, 29
* Chia-hsin Lin, 29
* Alexander Ogonwusi, 42
* Agnes Quinlivan, 80
* Jonael Schickler, 25
* Chia-Ching Wu, 30

ee also

* List of rail accidents in the United Kingdom


External links

* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/pottersbar/0,11994,713526,00.html Guardian Unlimited Special Report]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/uk/2002/potters_bar_crash/ BBC News In Depth - Potters Bar Crash]
* [http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/incident-pottersbar-may03progrep.pdf Office of Rail Regulation, latest progress report]

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