'We will never forget those who lost their lives' - Remembering the Potters Bar rail crash 20 years on

A crash investigator walks by the scene of the rail crash at Potter's Bar station, Hertfordshire.

A crash investigator walks by the scene of the rail crash at Potters Bar station, Hertfordshire, in 2002. - Credit: PA

Today – May 10 – marks the 20th anniversary of the Potters Bar rail crash.

Wreaths were laid this lunchtime at the Potters Bar memorial garden to the victims of the 2002 derailment.

A minute’s silence was observed at 12.56pm – the time of the tragic accident that led to seven people being killed. 

The victims included Agnes Quinlivan, 80, who was walking under the railway bridge in Darkes Lane and was struck by falling debris.

Around 70 more people suffered injuries on the day.

Cllr John Graham, Deputy Mayor of Hertsmere, Colonel Kevin Fitzgerald, and Cllr Seamus Quilty, Herts County Council chairman

Cllr John Graham, Deputy Mayor of Hertsmere, Colonel Kevin Fitzgerald, and Cllr Seamus Quilty, Hertfordshire County Council chairman, at the memorial ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Potters Bar rail crash. - Credit: Hertsmere Borough Council

On the 20th anniversary of the Potters Bar rail crash, Hertsmere’s deputy mayor has spoken of "the profound and indelible mark" the major incident left on the community.

Councillor John Graham said: “Today marks 20 years since the Potters Bar rail crash in which seven people were killed and many others injured. 

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“Then, as now, I was a councillor in Hertsmere and remember the day clearly. The incident left a profound and indelible mark on our community. 

"We will never forget those who lost their lives or those left behind to grieve and forced to rebuild their worlds after it.

“Our thanks go to the emergency services, whose indefatigable efforts on the day helped ensure more lives were not lost.”

The borough’s deputy mayor continued: “This incident had serious repercussions for local people, the rail industry, and other national institutions, but it also demonstrated the strength of the community spirit, which characterises Potters Bar and the whole of our borough. A spirit which lives on to this day.”

Potters Bar rail crash: The scene of the 2002 crash

Potters Bar rail crash: The scene of the 2002 crash - Credit: Archant

Councillors, local dignitaries, representatives from the rail industry and members of the emergency services were at the memorial.

Sajida Bijle, managing director of Hertsmere Borough Council, said: “Some of our councillors who represent our borough today and some of our staff members were among those present at the scene 20 years ago and helped to deal with the immediate aftermath and rebuilding efforts.

“I had just joined Hertsmere Borough Council in a more junior role and I think I can speak for everyone by saying it is not a day we will ever forget. 

“As events unfolded and the full extent of the tragedy became clear, we realised our community would never be the same again.

“We have all worked hard to heal the wounds inflicted by the crash and learn the lessons from it, and we are a stronger borough and local authority as a result.”

The efforts of the emergency services that day saved many lives.

Scene of the rail crash at Potters Bar station, Hertfordshire, in 2002.

Scene of the rail crash at Potters Bar station, Hertfordshire, in 2002. - Credit: PA

Andy Hopcraft, Deputy Chief Fire Officer for Hertfordshire, said: “Twenty years on the memories of that fateful day remain raw for those who lost loved ones. 

“As first responders, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service worked tirelessly along with the other emergency services to save as many lives as possible, evacuating the injured and making the site of the crash safe. 

“It’s important that we never forget the passengers, station staff, emergency services and their loved ones, who were all profoundly affected by this terrible tragedy.”

Hertfordshire Constabulary is flying its flag at headquarters in Welwyn Garden City at half-mast today to mark 20 years since the Potters Bar rail crash. 

Chief Constable Charlie Hall and Hertsmere Chief Inspector Mark Bilsdon attended an Act of Remembrance at a memorial garden close to the railway station followed by a service at Our Lady & St Vincent Church in the town.

Hertfordshire Constabulary attended the memorial to mark the 20th anniversary of the Potters Bar rail crash.

Hertfordshire Constabulary attended an Act of Remembrance at the memorial garden close to Potters Bar railway station to mark the 20th anniversary of the rail crash. - Credit: Hertfordshire Constabulary

Chief Inspector Bilsdon said: “What happened here in Potters Bar 20 years ago devastated seven families and changed their lives forever. It also took a traumatic toll on those who were injured in the crash. 

“The tragedy of that day was felt across the country and the people of Potters Bar continue to remember those whose lives were cut short.

"My thoughts today are with the family members and friends of the seven individuals who sadly died.”

Councillor Seamus Quilty, chairman of Hertfordshire County Council, said: “For many, the scenes from 20 years ago remain as vivid today as they did then, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those involved on that fateful day.

“As we come together to remember those we lost and those who were injured I’m reminded of the words of Gandhi, ‘There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.’” 

A faulty set of points south of the station were to blame for the tragic accident that occurred just 19 months after the Hatfield rail crash, which killed four people in October 2000.

Tom Moran, managing director of Thameslink and Great Northern, which now runs train services on the line, said: “Today, we remember those who lost their lives on a truly tragic day for the railway.

"The 20th anniversary is a timely reminder that safety must always be the absolute priority for everyone who works within the rail industry.”

Sarah Reid, East Coast Route Director for Network Rail, said: “Today our railway family is joining together with the local community in Potters Bar to remember everyone who lost their lives 20 years ago.

"Reflecting on the devastating tragedy which happened on 10 May 2002 has been an incredibly poignant reminder that we need to make sure this never happens again.”

Following the short ceremony at the memorial garden situated just yards from the station, a church service was held at Our Lady and St Vincent Church in Mutton Lane to remember all those killed and injured, and those affected by the incident.