THE families of the victims of the Potters Bar Rail Crash have demanded justice for their loved ones in an emotionally-charged afternoon at the inquest into their deaths.

Diana Fisher, mother of Jonael Schickler, said she wanted “the truth of the accident, to find out who was responsible and to pursue justice”.

Her son was 25-year-old at the time of the crash, in 2002, and was just weeks away from completing his philosophy and theology PhD at Cambridge University when he was fatally injured in the derailment on May 10.

She told the jury at the inquest: “When I heard the news, I shut down for a long time because we were very close. He was a strong person, and he would have wanted me to be strong.”

Coroner Judge Michael Findlay Baker QC allowed relatives of the victims to tell the inquest about their loved ones, their achievements in life, and their aspirations for the future.

Struggling to hold back tears, Captain John Knights, father of Emma Knights, described his “lively bouncy” daughter who harboured ambitions to travel the world when she died.

He said: “She was very positive, a standard catchphrase was 'I can do it myself Daddy' and that will last with me.

“She was hoping sometime in the future to travel and work overseas, and really see the world.”

Mr Schickler and Ms Knights were among the six passengers and one pedestrian who died in the crash, when the King's Lynn-bound train went over a set of defective points and the fourth carriage flipped on to its side and crashed into Potters Bar station.

Captain Knights hit out at the firms responsible for maintaining the railways on 2002, saying: “My thoughts are and have been for eight years that Network Rail and Jarvis were both informed there was a problem with a set of points.

“A simple but effective means of mitigating the accident – risk reduction – if there had been imposed a speed restriction, say 50mph. It would possibly not have resulted in anybody losing their life or at least mitigated serious injury.

“I'm angry at the people at Network Rail, not the individual people but a failure of safety management systems to be clear and explicit what operatives should do in the event of such report.”

The day before the crash, three separate reports of violent jolts on the line – known as “rough rides” - were reported just outside Potters Bar, but they were either forgotten, misinterpreted, or simply ignored.

Captain Knights said since the crash, when travelling by train he has asked about “rough rides” but received limited responses from train workers, and he added in his testimony: “We haven't learnt the lessons of Potters Bar and subsequent points derailments.”

In moving testimony to the hearing, at the Spirella Building in Letchworth, Pat Smith, the daughter of 80-year-old Agnes Quinlivan, who was killed by falling debris from the railway bridge that was struck by the derailed train, described the lasting impact of the death has had on her family.

She said: “It was devastating to our family. You know that when your mother is 80, she is getting near to the end of her life.

“But to lose someone like that, when she was living an individual life quite happily and still enjoying life, is quite hard on the family.”

Jurors were shown family photos of those who died, including Alexander Ogunwusi celebrating his birthday in traditional Nigerian clothing and Mr Schickler practising his cello just days before the crash.

Perdita Kark, the daughter of Austen Kark, a former managing director of the BBC World Service, said her family had to wait until 11pm on the night of the crash to discover he had died, describing it as an “awful, awful ordeal”.

She called for better procedures of informing the family when someone has been killed.

She said Mr Kark's wife, celebrated author Nina Bawden, who was badly injured in the crash, has had her retirement years destroyed by what happened.

She said: “She is a crumpled, broken old lady. She used to swim three times a week, travel, she was confident. She is not who she would have been.”

The inquest is now into its second week, and will soon begin to explore why defective points which caused the crash were not fixed and what has been done in the intervening years to try to prevent similar derailments happening again.

The inquest is expected to last for two months.