Richard Entwistle responds to Court of Appeal judge’s decision not launch a public inquiry

Richard Entwistle, the recently installed chief executive of Jarvis, has told Building that he believes the company was not responsible for the Potters Bar derailment in May 2002.

The crash, in which seven people died, occurred on a section of track that Jarvis maintained.

Shortly after the disaster, the company issued a statement suggesting that it may have been caused by sabotage. Jarvis was criticised for this claim, and it has since kept silent on whether or not it was to blame for the deaths, although it did accept “legal liability” in April 2004.

The Health and Safety Executive’s report, released in May 2003, pointed to poor maintenance, as did a Rail Safety and Standards Board report in April 2005.

There was the possibility that the cause of the crash may have been the subject of a further investigation after the parents of Chiahsin Lin, one of those killed in the crash, asked the High Court to order the Department for Transport to hold a public inquiry. But Lord Justice Moses said an inquest to be held next year should meet their needs.

Entwistle said: “The investigation continues and our position remains that we don’t believe that we are responsible.”

Our position remains that we don’t believe that we are responsible

Richard Entwistle

He was talking to Building after the announcement of the company’s annual results, which showed the fourth consecutive pre-tax loss. However, this was down from £391m last year to £58.2m. The company said it would have been in profit, but it had to pay £61.9m to restructure the business.

This restructuring involved a debt-for-equity swap with its banks. Last year Jarvis offered banks stakes in the company in return for reducing the its debt from £391m to £22.2m this year.

Entwistle said Jarvis would “return to profit” next year, although said it was unlikely that it would pay a dividend.

As well as lower interest payments, Jarvis’ reduced losses are the result of ending its involvement in construction and most PFI work in favour of roads and rail. The focus on fewer businesses meant that turnover fell from £510m to £401m in the 12 months to March.

There have been fears that the greater reliance on rail could again endanger the group, as Network Rail has may take its track renewals contracts in-house if contractors do not improve their performance. These make up more the £100m of Jarvis’ turnover.

Entwistle also confirmed a Building report in February that the company is looking to offload some of its five loss-making PFI facilities management contracts later in the year.