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Public Inquiry called for over Elsenham deaths cover up

11 May 2011

Gerry Doherty today called for a public inquiry into the cover up of safety reports which culd have prevented the death of two girls.

Ministers must order a public inquiry into the cover up of key safety reports that could have prevented the deaths of two school girls on an unsafe level crossing in Essex, rail union leader Gerry Doherty said today.

The TSSA general secretary called for action by the Attorney General after The Times disclosed that Network Rail failed to disclose a damning safety report on the Elsenham level crossing where Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlie Thompson, 13, were killed by an express train in December 2005. They died when they went through unlocked pedestrain gates while on a Christmas shopping trip. But the report, written in 2001 and not acted upon, said the crossing was so dangerous that a footbridge should be built over it or a subway underneath it.

It was not disclosed by NR to the families or the Essex Coroner at the inquest in 2007 which reached a verdict that the girls died accidentally. "This report, and another report in 2002 calling for the gates to be locked, makes chilling reading for the families who lost their daughters," the union leader said.

"It clearly predicts fatalites happening in the future unless action is taken to make a dangerous crossing safe.
"Yet not only did Network Rail fail to act when it should but, much, much worse, it failed to disclose this report to the families at the inquest.

"This looks like an apparent cover up by senior management who were clearly worried about the jury looking at alternative verdicts to that of accidental death.

"A re-called inquest is not wide enough in scope to get to the bottom of this. The Attorney General should order a public inquiry so the families can find out why they were kept in the dark for the past six years over the existence of these two damning safety reports."

He welcomed the re-opening of the inquiry into Elsenham by the rail regulator, the ORR, but pointed out that they too had been mislead by NR in the run up to the original inquest.
"This is a publicly funded company and it should be answerable to the public at a public inquiry," he added.

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