16 MAY 2011
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On Friday 10 May 2002, your Editor in Chief was emerging from an occasional visit to a gym in Darkes Lane, perhaps 100 yards from Potters Bar Railway Station. He heard what he described at the time, as an almighty bang, followed by an eerie silence. The Potters Bar rail crash had taken place. Six passengers were killed plus a pedestrian walking in the street. A small memorial garden today sits at a point just by the station where much of the debris fell.
It has taken 10 years for the truth of the accident to emerge. Last week Network Rail, the successor to Railtrack, and responsible for the maintenance of the permanent way, accepted the blame.
At St Albans Crown Court, Network Rail was fined £3m, the money paid out of the public purse. None of the officials responsible, nor at Jarvis, the contractor who actually performed the work on the railway track, were named or fined.
Network Rail has issued the standard statement saying that safety is their paramount obligation, a phrase now used in many industries as a plain cover up. Is safety really an overriding factor or is the chase for profit (or a bonus) the ultimate goal?
Have you had a look at your local railway station recently? What you will generally see is an appalling trackside mess with dense foliage everywhere that has not been dealt with for years, sometimes six feet tall. What lies within this growth no one can tell. Here is a recipe for disaster, whether the weeds undermining the track or those of a certain mindset using the undergrowth as cover for dastardly deeds.
More elderly readers may be reminded of the wonderful station gardens that abounded under British Rail. OK the organisation left a lot to be desired but at least it took pride with its product and the infrastructure. Stationmasters competed nationally and there were nominal prizes galore.
AERBT has been unable to verify a timescale but it seems obvious that at some point over the last decade Network Rail decided that cleaning the trackside was not for them and a big money saving could be achieved by cutting it out. Personal bonus's might also be realized and nobody would notice how the targets were met.
The result of this policy is noted above.
In 2012 the nation is being showcased with the London Olympics. The whole place is being tidied up. But not the railways.
How long are we to continue with the current situation? Who will carry the blame once an accident/incident occurs? Will those ultimately responsible once again get away with their delegation of duty scot-free?
Network Rail is not a pretty sight.
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