The coroner presiding over the Potters Bar Rail Crash inquest explained to the jury and relatives of the people who died why it has taken eight long years for the hearing to start.

Judge Michael Findlay Baker said the delay was a “very long time indeed” and it was right for the inquest into the deaths of seven people in the crash to begin with an explanation of the time lapse.

The families of those who died have long called for an independent public inquiry into the crash and were first denied by the government in 2005.

They challenged that decision in the courts, but the appeal failed in July 2006. While the court proceedings were on going, no inquest could be scheduled.

Judge Baker said his predecessor in the role of assistant deputy coroner in 2006 started planning for an April 2007 inquest following the appeal failure, but this had to be shelved after the Grayrigg train crash in 2007.

He said: “It quickly became apparent there was some similarities between the two derailments, and the causes of the Greyriggs derailment might well have to be considered in the Potters Bar inquest.”

Following the Grayrigg crash in Cumbria, in which one person died, the families of the Potters Bar victims launched another, ultimately unsuccessful, bid for a public inquiry.

Another 18 months elapsed before the inquest, which started today, was able to begin, in which time Judge Baker took over the role and scheduled the hearing for the next two months at the Spirella Building in Letchworth.

James Clappison, Conservative MP for Hertsmere, was at the hearing this morning, and slammed the amount of time it has taken to get to this stage.

He said: “I think there should have been a public inquiry. I have at various time had various excuses, and eight years is far too long for the families of the victims to have to wait for answers.”

The inquest is dealing with the deaths in the May 10 2002 Potters Bar Rail Crash of:

  • Chia Hsin Lin, 29, of Rich Street, London
  • Chia Chin Wu, 30, of Taipai, Taiwan
  • Agnes Quinlivan, 80, of Blackhorse Lane, South Mimms
  • Alexander Ogunwusi, 42, of Fairview Place, Upper Tulse Hill, London
  • Jonael Schickler, 25, of Forest Row, East Sussex
  • Austen Kark, 75, of Noel Road, Islington, London
  • Emma Knights, 29, of High Street, Knapwell, Cambridgeshire