Call for rail bosses to lose 'grotesque' bonuses after Potters Bar inquest

UNION bosses have demanded that rail chiefs be stripped of their bonuses in the wake of the inquest into the Potters Bar rail crash.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, described recent "huge" payouts to senior Network Rail management as "sickening".

Judge Michael Findlay Baker QC, coroner at the long-awaited inquest, on Friday promised to file a report expressing his concern about the risk of future deaths in similar circumstances to Potters Bar.

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The inquest concluded that a points failure lay behind the 2002 disaster in which seven people were killed.

Mr Crow said: "It is sickening that the senior management of Network Rail, condemned yesterday as presiding over a rail system that the Potters Bar judge has described as presenting a continuing risk to life and limb, have scooped up massive bonuses.

"The judge has served notice on Network Rail under Rule 43 in an unprecedented move that nails the lie that the organisation have got their house in order when it comes to safety. Criminal prosecutions are also being considered.

"Network Rail bosses are being rewarded for cutting jobs and for axing inspection, renewals and maintenance and for presiding over systemic and continuing failures on rail safety.

"They should be stripped of these grotesque bonuses and should be immediately instructed by the Government to halt their cuts programme.

"With the Rule 43 notice hanging over them it would be an outrage if they were to plough on with their safety-critical cuts plans."

Six passengers - Austen Kark, Emma Knights, Jonael Schickler, Alexander Ogunwusi, Chia Hsin Lin and Chia Chin Wu - were killed in the crash in Hertfordshire on 10 May, 2002.

The seventh victim, Agnes Quinlivan, who was walking nearby, died after she was hit by debris.

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More than 70 people were also injured when the 12.45pm King's Cross to King's Lynn train crashed as it reached the Potters Bar station at 1pm.

Mr Crow's comments come as prosecutors are considering whether criminal charges could be brought over the crash.

Rail regulators were reconsidering the case after the jurors highlighted the fact that failures to inspect or maintain the points led to the disaster.

The Crown Prosecution Service initially ruled out launching criminal proceedings, in 2005, but now said it is considering whether any new information came to light during the seven-week inquest.

It is thought either manslaughter charges, or a criminal case under health and safety laws, could be brought if sufficient new evidence was available.

Judge Baker apologised to the bereaved families for the fact it took eight years for the inquest to be held as it concluded yesterday in Letchworth, Hertfordshire. Following the inquest, an Office of Rail Regulation spokesman said: "We will now proceed to determine whether any criminal proceedings for health and safety offences should be brought in accordance with the Work Related Deaths Protocol."