SAFETY of passengers and staff on Britain's railways is still at risk because of systemic failings, the father of a Potters Bar Rail Crash victim has said.

Captain John Knights has dedicated vast swathes of the last nine years investigating and studying railway safety after his daughter Emma died in the crash at Potters Bar.

Having sat through every day of the inquest into his daughter's and six other people's deaths, Captain Knights said he has heard little evidence about the cause of the crash and hit out at the industry's reluctance to tackle safety problems he believes are endemic in the industry.

He said: “We haven't studied or heard any real evidence as to the root cause of the accident. We've heard subsequent evidence, some of it in very great detail, but I think the root cause of the accident has still not been explored by this inquiry.

“This circumstance and lack of emergency procedure still prevails today, and this is one of the systemic failures of the railway safety case.

“I think this is an opportunity for the rail industry to really embrace a comprehensive safety management system.”

Captain Knights, a safety expert from his career in the Navy, told the hearing in Letchworth he has used the railways frequently since the May 2001 crash, and says he regularly asks staff what the procedure are for reporting “rough rides”.

These are indicators of a problem on the line – such as was reported by a passenger the day before the crash but was ignored, misinterpreted, and forgotten by railway staff.

Captain Knights said: “Some staff give a silly answer to some degree. A lot of train driving staff that I ask, post-Potters Bar, a common response is 'oh, we get those all the time'. It's almost dismissive.”

He said he believes rail workers are “walking a tightrope” and have no safety net if they are to make a mistake.

Dr Anthony Joseph Boyle, a rail safety expert who gave evidence next, said he reviewed the response to Potters Bar from Railtrack and maintenance firm Jarvis, and said he had seen very little evdience of the cause of the crash being addressed.

He said: “I have seen correction, putting the problem right, but I still haven't seen and have yet to find out why there wasn't any procedures (to detect the problem) in the first place.”

He urged the rail industry to, after this inquest, embrace comprehensive safety management systems and appoint independent auditors to oversee the work that is being done.

The inquest into the deaths is due to conclude early next week, when the jury will retire to consider their findings.