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Report: Loose Nuts Caused Derailment

May 14, 2002 | AP

Last week's commuter train crash that killed seven people and injured more than 70 was caused by four loose nuts in a track switching mechanism, safety officials said Tuesday.

The Health and Safety Executive said the high-speed express commuter train carrying 151 people derailed as it passed through a faulty set of points — the mechanism diverting a train from one track to another.

"Evidence suggests that the points in question moved as the rear of the third carriage of the train passed over them, deflecting the fourth and last carriage toward the left," said the interim report, which blamed loose nuts for that movement.

Rail maintenance contractor Jarvis PLC said Tuesday its inspectors repaired loose nuts at the same switching mechanism just days before the crash. On Monday, a rail union official said a worker drew attention to the faulty points and the poor state of the track three weeks before the crash.

But John Armitt, chief executive of Railtrack, which manages the railway infrastructure, told BBC radio Tuesday the company had not received any official information about track problems.

Frank Hyland, who is managing the executive's investigation, said the inquiry was focusing on why the nuts were not in place. No debris was found on the track and any vandalism would have been "extremely sophisticated and daring," he said.

There also was no evidence the train was badly driven, the report said.

The accident occurred Friday at the suburban Potters Bar station north of London. Ten of the 76 people injured remain hospitalized, with one in critical condition, the report said.

The accident further sapped public confidence in Britain's dilapidated railway network. It was the sixth fatal crash since 1997.

In an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. television to be aired Tuesday night, Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) said there were "huge problems on the transport network" caused by years of underfunding and a 20 percent increase in ridership since 1997.

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