Tuesday, 17 May 2011

TSSA rail union calls for Elsenham public inquiry

The coalition government's Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is being urged this week to hold a public inquiry into why Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson were killed by a train at the Elsenham level crossing in 2005. 
  Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the transport union TSSA, called on Hammond to act when opening the union's annual conference held in Norwich. Delegates heard Doherty speak about two crucial documents about the level crossing that have only recently 'emerged'.
   The documents show Network Rail and its predecessor, Railtrack, had received danger warnings about safety at Elsenham several years before the tragedy. An earlier fatality at the crossing had occurred in 1989.
  Mr Doherty, speaking about the inquest into the girls' deaths, said: "The inquest was a travesty because neither the coroner, the families nor the Rail Regulator were told about them. If either of these reports had been acted upon these girls would still be alive.
   The Office of Rail Regulation has reopened its inquiry into the tragedy. "We are fully co-operating," said a Network Rail spokesman.

Earlier on May 13, Network Rail, as Railtrack's successor, was fined £3 million and ordered to pay £150,000 costs following an Office of Rail Regulation prosecution for a health and safety offence which caused the deaths of seven people and many more serious injuries when a West Anglia Great Northern train derailed at Potters Bar station on 10 May, 2002. 
   Railtrack was responsible for the infrastructure - and Jarvis was the contracted maintenance firm - when the accident occurred.
   Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, said: "People need to remember it was the privatised Railtrack and their contractors who were responsible...Network Rail didn't even exist when the tragedy of Potters Bar occurred...It is the directors of Railtrack and Jarvis - including Steven Norris - who should have been held personally liable...It is a scandal that those really responsible have got away with it.
   "Instead of coming out of the pockets of those actually responsible this £3m will come out of precious public Network Rail funds that could and should have been invested in improving and maintaining safety on our railways.
   "That is an appalling indictment of the way that this whole episode has been handled."

Paul Coleman, London, May 2011.

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