20th Anniversary: Potters Bar Railway Accident

Flowers laid at the Potters bar memorial

Flowers laid at the Potters Bar Memorial, 10.05.2022.


This week saw the 20th anniversary (10th May 2002) of the railway accident at Potters Bar. This horrific incident killed seven people and injured more than 70 others.

BTP officers and staff attended in large numbers. Many of those in attendance were veterans of earlier major incidents and terrorist attacks and many went on to attend further large incidents in the years that followed.

The work of the officers at the scene and during the subsequent investigation received considerable, and well-deserved praise. The liaison with other agencies, including the Hertfordshire Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate was first class.

BTP officers were on scene very quickly. The early declaration of a Major Incident by Hertfordshire meant that everybody was aware of the scale of what had happened. Control of the inner cordon and crime scene was passed to the force very quickly.

Considerable support was given by other forces and by what is now the College of Policing. Sue Maxfield, the force welfare officer, led the arrangements for the welfare of officers. BTP Health and Safety officers and the force/railway chaplains helped as the incident extended over several days. There was extensive involvement with the local community.

Officers in command roles included A/CI Mick Burnham, Insp Paul Hatton, Supt Tony McDonnel, CI John O’Donnel, Ch Supt Peter Hilton, Insp Duncan Manners and Ch Supt David Hatcher and many others. Supt Paul Crowther and DI Alistair Lawson were key figures in the investigation. As always, the BTP POLSAs and search teams did great work, as did those who worked on Family Liaison with the Hertfordshire Constabulary. The Control Room and Scientific Support performed to a very high standard.

Network Rail were convicted of Health and Safety failings nine years later and were fined £3M.

There was a service at a local church on the anniversary: 10th May 2022, The Church of Our Lady and St Vincent, Potters Bar, Herts.

Phil Trendall (Chair)


Many BTP officers were involved in the response to this major incident. The names given above are from the memory of one BTPHG member and represents a fraction of the complete list. We wish to increase our record of these major events. Official histories often miss out, or under represent, the role played by BTP. If you were a serving officer or member of police staff and were involved in any major incident, including Potters Bar, during your service please consider committing your memories to paper. Your accounts of what actually happened on the ground, including what affect it had on you will help future generations understand the work of the BTP in the second half of the 20th and early 21st centuries. We exist to preserve our history and, as we all know, witness evidence is amongst the best there is. Anything you produce can be kept in our archive collections.

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