A coroner has apologised to families of victims killed in the Potters Bar rail crash, saying it is "indefensible" they had to wait eight years for an inquest.

He also warned of the potential for more carnage on the railways after the inquest jury blamed a points failure for the deaths of seven people.

After a seven-week inquest in Letchworth, the jury ruled the disaster was caused by poor maintenance and inspections.

Judge Michael Findlay Baker QC promised to file a report expressing his concerns.

Family members said the inquest failed to answer key questions surrounding the deaths of their loved ones as the coroner admitted their eight-year wait for answers was "indefensible".

The coroner said: "Whatever the causes, the passage of over eight years from the derailment to the conclusion of the hearing of the inquest is indefensible. The families are due a public apology, and as the current representative of the system whose abuse has led to this delay, I offer that apology. It feels wholly inadequate, but it is all that it is within my power to do. I hope a line may begin to be drawn, and a sad and lengthy chapter in many lives may be closed.

"Rule 43 of the 1984 Coroners Rules provides, among other things, that, where the evidence in an inquest gives rise to a concern that circumstances creating a risk of other deaths will continue to exist, and in the coroner's opinion action should be taken to prevent the continuation of such circumstances, that the coroner has power to report those circumstances to a person who the coroner believes may have power to take such action. It is my intention to make a Rule 43 report."

Six passengers - Austen Kark, Emma Knights, Jonael Schickler, Alexander Ogunwusi, Chia Hsin Lin and Chia Chin Wu - were killed in the crash on May 10, 2002. The seventh victim, Agnes Quinlivan, who was walking nearby, died after she was hit by debris. More than 70 people were injured.

After the inquest, relatives described the emotional impact of their struggle to find out what went wrong.

Pat Smith, the daughter of Agnes Quinlivan, said: "It's been a long traumatic haul. Eight years ago seven much-loved and gifted people lost their lives and it has extended right out to the families. It's been the most difficult journey that I don't think anyone could have ever envisaged.

"Nobody expects to lose someone the way we have all lost somebody here. Nobody expects to wait eight years to understand why it happened. And now we have only got some of the answers, we haven't got all of the answers yet."