Published 4th March 2013
Network Rail (NR) has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,000 for Health and Safety breaches at Cheshunt in Hertfirdshire when a track worker was seriously injured in March 2010. The prosecution was brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) whose organisation includes the Railway Inspectorate.
Terence Wray was injured on March 30, 2010, while attending to a track fault at Cheshunt Junction while trains continued to run. He moved away from a train to what is known as a position of safety on the line but the train was diverted to the line by NR on which Mr Wray was waiting and was consequently hit resulting in his injuries.
ORR’s investigations suggested that the work being undertaken had not been properly planned and managed and involved unqualified staff which formed part of the Hearing’s evidence at St Albans Crown Court. Safer methods were available but the work was undertaken on the live railway as services operated exposing the workers to unnecessary danger. NR had previously pleaded guilty to the charges at Hertford Magistrates’ Court on November 13, 2012.
ORR’s , Tom Wake, Deputy Director Railway Safety, said: “The safety of track workers, and all those working on Britain’s railways, is a top priority for ORR. Where maintenance work takes place it should be planned, well managed and not place workers in unnecessary danger.
“In this case, NR’s management and planning for maintenance of the track at Cheshunt Junction, Hertfordshire was not good enough. The company’s failures caused the entirely avoidable and life-changing injuries for its employee Terence Wray. “Since the incident Network Rail has reduced the number of works taking place on tracks whilst trains continued to run, further protecting the safety of its employees. The regulator will continue to monitor the company’s management of rail maintenance and we will always step in when required to protect those working on, and using, the railway.”
NR was found guilty of breaching health and safety laws after a car passenger died after being hit by a train at a level crossing after Adrian Maund, signalman at Moreton On Lugg erroneously raised the barriers allowing traffic to cross the line.
The accident happened in January 2010 resulting in the death of 52 year old Jane Harding and serious injuries to her husband Mark Harding. NR was found guilty at Birmingham crown court and the resultant fine could be £1m. During the Hearing it emerged that NR had taken the decision not to automate the crossing including linking it to the signalling system which prevents the barriers being raised when a train approaches.
The signalman raised the level crossing barriers in error when the Arriva Manchester to Milford Haven service was still approaching the crossing but the signalman thought it had passed the crossing. The Signalman and NR denied breaching health and safety regulations but Mr Maund was found guilty of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of other people likely to be affected by his actions or omissions at work.
NR in turn was found guilty on a charge for failing to ensure the Hardings were not exposed to risks to their health and safety, according to the Crown Prosecution Service and will be sentenced at Birmingham crown court in April.
Jayne Salt, of the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said afterwards: "Adrian Maund and Network Rail both played very different parts in the tragic death of Jane Harding. Mr Maund made a mistake in raising the level crossing barriers when a train was approaching. Whilst his was a momentary error, his failure to follow procedures and checks, as he had been trained to do, has rightly resulted in his conviction.
"His employers, on the other hand, made a deliberate decision not to install a safety device which would have detected the oncoming train and kept the barriers down. That decision was based on cost.
"It is right that an organisation that holds the safety of the public in its hands on a daily basis has been held to account for its decision making. My thoughts are with Mrs Harding's family and I hope that this result gives them some small measure of comfort."
Network Rail spokesman said: "Mrs Harding's death at Moreton-on-Lugg level crossing was a tragedy that has had a profound impact upon many families and railway staff. We are deeply sorry that through no fault of their own, the Hardings found themselves involved in a fatal train accident.
NR has faced criticism over level crossing accidents which 99.9% of the time is the users fault, and they are trying to close as many crossings as possible but often face local opposition. This is because closing a crossing often involves cutting down trees, and building a bridge with some land take. So far NR has spent £130m closing nearly 700 crossings. This was a very rare regrettable incident with profound results.
Network Rail has issued a bizarre apology after trains were delayed while the signalman became stuck in a lavatory! The inconvenience happened when the signalman at Henwick signalbox near Worcester could not be contacted.
After the driver of the 1513hrs Hereford to Paddington train could not talk to the signalman, he went to see what was wrong to find the signalman stuck in the outside toilet!
A Network Rail spokesman apologised for ‘the inconvenience’ caused to passengers saying "Much of the railway is still controlled from Victorian built signal boxes, which often have outside loos.
NR is replacing these old manually operated signal boxes in a 30 year project which will see modern signalling centres run the railway.
Written by Phil Marsh