Investigation into Virgin Train Crash

Virgin Train Crash - Cumbria

26.02.2007

Investigators looking at the cause of the Virgin Train Crash which took place in Grayrigg, Cumbria on Friday, in which a woman was killed and many injured, have announced that they are currently focusing on a suspected points failure. A spokesperson for the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said that they were focusing on a pair of points "to the south of where the train came to a halt".

News that accident investigators are focusing on a suspected points failure as the cause of the derailment of the London to Glasgow Virgin Pendolino train will prompt comparisons with other recent train crashes. Although it is not yet clear who or what is to blame for the crash in Grayrigg, investigators found maintenance firms were at fault for both Hatfield and Potters Bar.

Comments from leading personal injury solicitor

John Pickering, Head of Personal Injury at Irwin Mitchell, who is representing victims involved in the Cumbria rail crash said in the immediate aftermath of yesterday's accident, whilst the primary concern is for the survivors, and the bereaved, investigators will already be looking to establish the cause and any culpability.

"They will be looking at issues about who's responsible, if anyone. If it is down, for example, to a points failure, what was the nature of the failure and whose responsibility was it? Was it the responsibility for Network Rail who maintain the track, or contractors doing work on the line, and something's gone wrong there."

"If there is any neglect or system failure it's a question of degree, whether there is a major failure, which has let people down, or something at a lesser level."

"At Hatfield it was a case where one was looking at corporate manslaughter charges. They were brought under Health and Safety at Work legislation."

The report into the Potters Bar train crash in May 2002 identified missing nuts and poor maintenance as the main causes of the disaster. Safety investigators also criticized the absence of guidance or instruction for inspecting and maintaining the points.

Following Potters Bar incident Network Rail introduced special locking nuts that cannot rattle loose with the vibration caused by passing trains. But the points at Grayrigg were alleged to be more than 20 years old and not of the type that can accommodate the locking nuts introduced after Potters Bar.

Although the points are rarely used they should be visually inspected once a week and serviced every 13 weeks. Network Rail have said that an inspection had been carried out on 3 February.