Hatfield Rail Crash
The InterCity 225 that left Kings Cross at 12:10 on October 17 2000 ended its journey just 13 minutes later, not of course at its intended destination of Leeds , but in a mess of derailed coaches near Hatfield .
Initially there were suspicions that vandalism or even terrorism could have caused the accident in which four people died. But it was later found that metal fatigue had led to the cracking of a rail which derailed all of the train bar the engine and the first two coaches.
The train had been travelling at 115mph, and it was testament to the solidity of the coaches in use that fatalities were limited to people in the restaurant car ripped apart by its impact against an overhead gantry. But the safety engineered into the rolling stock was not, it was found, echoed in the infrastructure. Similar damage was discovered in many other rails on the same site. When investigations widened, it became clear this was a national problem, more disasters waiting to happen. More than 1000 speed restrictions were put in place while work was undertaken to resolve the situation.
After the accident at Paddington the previous year and the Southall crash in 1997 public confidence in the system was dented. Hatfield was the final straw for the government, which found a way to replace the private Railtrack with effectively nationalised Network Rail. Some saw the root of the problem as the external tender culture, an idea so brilliant it now permeates the NHS .
With the swiftness for which British justice is famed a court case began over the incident in January 2005. No individuals were found guilty.
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