Fresh inquiry launched into rail deaths

PUBLISHED: 09:23 17 February 2011 | UPDATED: 09:31 17 February 2011

Elsenham rail station

Elsenham rail station

Archant

THE families of two girls killed at Elsenham railway crossing have got their wish for a fresh inquiry to be reopened.

Charlotte Thompson, left and Olivia Bazlinton

Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13 were killed at the station in December 2005 while on a Christmas shopping trip.

Five years on, the families fear there has been a ‘cover-up’ after it emerged that a key risk assessment document was apparently withheld in the aftermath of the tragedy.

The document – written some three years before in 2002 - recommended the crossing’s gates should be locked when trains approach. They did not lock automatically when the teenagers were hit by a train.

This week the document was passed to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) whose director of railway safety, Ian Prosser, has asked inspectors to review it – a decision welcomed by Olivia’s dad, Chris Bazlinton.

Speaking to the Reporter, he said: “If Network Rail had followed that advice then the girls could still be alive today.

“So we are very pleased that ORR has decided to not just let this drift and they are rightly concerned that they did not have all the information.”

Mr Bazlinton said the families knew of “a document” some three months ago which could cause “severe embarrassment to Network Rail”, but it first came to light three weeks ago.

Rail operator Network Rail said that the document had been passed to Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), who published its report in May 2006, and to a firm of solicitors representing Charlotte’s father Reg Thompson.

The families insist that the firm was never hired.

ORR confirmed that it has recently received a copy of a key document which it had not seen previously relating to the tragedy. The document was also not part of the evidence listed in the 2007 inquest.

“How can a proper investigation be carried out if the full facts are not provided?” asked Mr Bazlinton.

“Of course we are never going to forget it and it is not a happy thing to be dragging it up again. But on the other hand we would rather the full facts come out – and we will be pushing for that.

“There is still a long way to go. We have discovered this document which should have been released a long time ago but that doesn’t solve the whole thing. We will be pressing to make sure that an investigation does happen. We just want the truth.”

“It is important that Network Rail is not allowed to hide behind this.”

In a statement released yesterday (Wednesday), Network Rail chief executive David Higgins said: “Network Rail will refrain from making any further comments on this case until the company has reviewed the detailed chronology of what documents were released and to whom.

“We expect this to take about two weeks and will give full disclosure once completed.”


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