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UK crash report rules out sabotage

One carriage ploughed into a platform before hitting a bridge.

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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- The Potters Bar train crash which killed seven people and injured more than 70, was caused by poorly maintained track, not sabotage or vandalism, according to a report released on Thursday.

The report from the government's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified a set of points as the cause of last May's crash at the station just north of London.

One carriage of a high-speed passenger train ploughed into a platform before slamming into a bridge in what was Britain's fifth fatal rail crash in as many years.

The engineering firm Jarvis plc (JRVS.L), which had responsibility for maintaining that section of track, has always insisted "sophisticated sabotage" could not be ruled out.

But the report said there appeared to have been no instructions for inspection or maintenance of the type of points involved and that a wider rail network inspection revealed conditions were "not consistent with good engineering practice."

It also said there appeared to have been a failure to recognize safety-related defects in the set-up and condition of the points.

A preliminary report following the crash said a fault in the points -- which allow a train to change tracks -- had caused one of the carriages to derail as it passed over. It said four locking nuts were missing from bolts in the points system and were found under the rail.

Thursday's report prompted the solicitor acting for the relatives and families to call for a public inquiry.

"The report demonstrates in graphic terms that a decaying rail infrastructure with damaged, safety-critical parts is not subject to proper monitoring, maintenance or replacement," Louise Christian of Christian Khan solicitors said.

"It is absolutely clear that the safety of all those who travel on trains means a public inquiry is necessary, quite apart from concerns of the bereaved and injured."

Previous demands for a public inquiry have failed to make any progress.

Thursday's document is the third HSE update since the accident. A final report will be published when their investigation is complete.

Neither Railtrack, in overall charge of Britain's track at the time, nor Jarvis, has accepted responsibility for the crash.

A police investigation is continuing.

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