In our last Newsletter, we reported that the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) was prosecuting Network Rail and Jarvis Rail Limited under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for the Potters Bar derailment in 2002, which resulted in seven fatalities and many more injuries. The ORR reopened their investigation following a 2010 Inquest in which it was found that poor maintenance and inadequate inspections to a set of points were causes.
At the time of the incident, overall responsibility for the track lay with Railtrack plc. Network Rail subsequently acquired Railtrack, including its liability for the incident. The prosecution of both Network Rail and Jarvis began on 21 February 2011 in Watford Magistrates Court, where Network Rail submitted a guilty plea to the charges against it under the 1974 Act. A spokeswoman for Network Rail stated “we have indicated a guilty plea today as Network Rail took on all of Railtrack’s obligations, responsibilities and liabilities when it took over the company”.
Following Network Rail’s guilty plea, the ORR announced that it would not proceed to trial against Jarvis alone. While the ORR considered there to be a realistic prospect of convicting Jarvis, they stated that it was not in the public interest to do so. In particular the ORR cited Jarvis’ insolvency, Network Rail’s guilty plea and the views expressed by victims’ families.
Sentencing Network Rail to a fine of £3 million on 12 May 2011, Judge Bright remarked that Railtrack’s procedures and standards were “seriously inadequate” and that “overall responsibility for the breach of duty lay with Railtrack at senior management level and their failures were significant and extensive”.