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  1. Read the article. Sum it up in 5 sentences. Do you agree that it could have been sabotage? Are these sorts of things common in your country? train crash: it could have been sabotage


25 February 2007

In echoes of Potters Bar, train crash investigators find four vital bolts lying at the side of the tracks as Network Rail orders checks on 600 sets of points around Britain...

Rail crash investigators were facing up to the possibility that the Virgin train derailment could have been the result of sabotage.

Four vital steel bolts from a set of points that the train had just crossed were found lying at the side of the track.

The bolts should have been firmly fixed to a track stretcher bar on the high-speed West Coast line at Grayrigg, near Kendal, Cumbria.

Network Rail, which is responsible for track maintenance, said it would require a specialist heavy spanner used by rail engineers to remove the bolts.

One senior railway executive told The Mail on Sunday last night: "Four bolts were lying there neatly. They had been removed recently. It's very odd. It's a mystery. We cannot give a rational explanation. We have to try to find out who has been there recently and why somebody would do this. Sabotage cannot be ruled out."

One woman - 84-year-old Margaret Masson from Glasgow - died and 100 of the estimated 120 passengers were injured, five seriously, when the London to Glasgow Virgin Pendolino tilting train left the track at 95 mph at 8.15pm on Friday night. Experts were astonished there was no greater loss of life.

The crash appears eerily similar to the Potters Bar accident five years ago, which killed seven people.

Investigators found that nuts were missing from key bolts on a track stretcher bar which fractured, derailing the train. An inquiry by the Health and Safety Executive ruled out sabotage, which had been alleged by maintenance contractor Jarvis. Since then, responsibility for maintenance has been taken over by Network Rail.

In Friday's crash, the carriages careered down an embankment, and the leading engine ended up on its own facing in the opposite direction in a field. Police, fire and ambulance crews worked in rain and pitch-black conditions to rescue the injured, smashing their way into carriages.

Dazed passengers showed remarkable resilience and stumbled through the darkness to reach isolated farmhouses nearby.

Last night, as the investigation centred on the points, Network Rail announced that a further 600 similar points around Britain would be checked for faults.

Network Rail chief executive John Armitt said: "A points failure can be due to various causes. I have to live with the reality that something could have gone wrong on our watch."

Mr Armitt said the points at the crash scene had been given a monthly inspection in early February, with the next due in a week. A 13-weekly inspection took place two months ago, and the annual inspection was made last June.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, said: "There was a track inspection a few days ago and there were no problems. But all of a sudden the bolts are off.

"The reality is that after Potters Bar they've allowed a situation where nuts and bolts have fallen off. Nuts and bolts go on jumbo jets, they go on space ships. How come they don't fall off?

"I can't say if it's sabotage. But management have to take the rap when it goes wrong. We will not allow our staff to be scapegoats."

Mrs Masson was travelling home on the train with her daughter Margaret Langley, 61, from Southport, Merseyside, and her husband Richard, 63. Mrs Langley was 'very poorly' and deteriorating in the Royal Preston Hospital last night, and her husband was 'critical'.

Mrs Masson's granddaughter Margaret Jones, 41, said last night: "We are devastated by the death of our Nan and about Mum and Dad being so very poorly.

"We are distraught but we are all here for our parents and we ask that we are left alone to cope during this difficult time."

The train driver, Ian Black, 46, from Scotland, was in a 'very critical but stable' condition with chest and neck injuries at the Royal Preston Hospital.

Sir Richard Branson, who flew back from a family holiday in the Swiss Alps to visit the crash scene, sent his condolences to Mrs Masson's family and described Mr Black as a hero.

He said the driver had done a 'tremendous job' staying at the controls in a desperate attempt to steer the train to safety.

"Our driver could have run from his seat and dashed to the next carriage, where he might well have been safe,' said Sir Richard. "Instead, he tried to steer the train to safety. He ended up quite badly injured. I am honestly not worried at this moment who is to blame. If it was a faulty line, then we have to make sure it never happens again."

He added he was sure the Virgin train was "100 per cent safe" and was "built like a tank".

Rebecca Denholme, 25, from Glasgow, who escaped with bruising, described how she was flung around her carriage before it came to rest upside down.

"When I stopped moving my seat was on the ceiling, which was quite strange," she said. "It was like being in a pinball machine. I feel like I have been beaten up."

  1. Read this article. Sum it up in 7-8 sentences. Use the topical vocabulary from the box.

Conduct a similar survey in your group. Is the situation similar or different in your country? What would be your verdict on our trains?

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