POINTS INCORRECTLY SET UP – were the cause of Grayrigg disaster

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Rail union RMT yesterday renewed its call for a joint public inquiry into the Grayrigg and Potters Bar rail crashes and a reversal of maintenance spending cuts.

This came after the publication of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report into the Grayrigg derailment.

The union said: ‘RMT notes that the final Grayrigg report identifies systematic management failings, lack of resources and imposition of unrealistic workloads as contributory factors to the derailment, which claimed the life of Margaret Masson and injured 86 other people in February 2007.

‘Similarities between the two crashes, and the coroner’s decision last year to adjourn the inquest into the seven deaths at Potters Bar in 2002 pending the outcome of the Grayrigg investigation, highlight the need for a joint public inquiry – with a remit that includes examination of the structure and continued fragmentation of the industry.’

The union also renewed its call for an apology from the British Transport Police for keeping two of its members under caution over Grayrigg ‘without a shred of evidence’ for eleven months.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: ‘It is now abundantly clear that systematic management failings, lack of resources and the fragmented “contract culture” still prevalent on the railway, all played their part in the complex of causes of the Grayrigg derailment.

‘Network Rail’s spending targets have been slashed by 30% over the last five years and we have raised concerns about the workloads placed on individuals on a number of occasions.

‘The improvement notice served on NR last year made it clear that experienced track-inspection staff were being hampered by inadequate management of the inspection regime across the network.

‘The report points out that staff had complained before the crash at the lack of track access due to timetable changes, and that hard-pressed staff were forced to squeeze too many inspections into a few hours on a Sunday morning.

‘It also says that considerable overtime was required to provide the numbers needed to undertake and provide lookouts for inspections, and points to the obvious link between long hours and performance.

‘For Network Rail to attempt, as it did, to point the finger of blame at individuals it managed so poorly was outrageous, and for police to keep two of our members under suspicion of manslaughter for nearly a year without a shred of evidence demands an apology.

‘Each report into this tragedy has pointed clearly to management failings and lack of resources, and it is those structural failings that still need to be addressed.

‘We need an end to the contract culture and inappropriate practices brought in by private contractors and to shift the emphasis from getting things done quickly and cheaply to doing them properly and safely.’

The RAIB’s 255-page report said Network Rail incorrectly set up points that failed and were the ultimate cause of the derailment and made 29 safety recommendations directed at Network Rail, including measures to tackle staff fatigue.

NR had an ‘incomplete understanding’ of the design, maintenance and inspection of the stretcher bars used in the points, the RAIB said.

The organisation also failed to carry out a planned track inspection of the points five days before the fatal crash.

The RAIB said a report into the 2002 Potters Bar crash identified a need for NR to better understand the different designs of points used on the rail network.

The report said: ‘NR had accepted the value of such an approach but did not consider its application to existing points with non-adjustable stretcher bars to be a priority.’

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon welcomed the report and said a decision on an inquest into the Potters Bar tragedy would be taken in the New Year.