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November 25, 2011

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Fresh level-crossing evidence leads to prosecution

Network Rail will face criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety law, after an investigation into the deaths of two teenage girls at a rail-station footpath crossing was reopened because of new evidence.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) confirmed today (25 November) that Network Rail would face two charges – under reg. 3 (1)(b) and reg. 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and one charge under section 3(1) of the HSWA 1974 – over the incident on 3 December 2005.

The charges relate to Network Rail’s alleged failure to carry out proper assessments of the risks to the safety of members of the public using the footpath crossing, or to have in place adequate arrangements to underpin these assessments.

The prosecution follows the conclusion of the ORR’s reopened investigation into the deaths of Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson, aged 14 and 13, who were struck by a train at the footpath crossing at Elsenham station, in Essex.

The ORR originally investigated the incident in 2005 and 2006. The coroner’s inquest, held in January 2007, returned a verdict of accidental death, and the rail regulator closed its investigation in May 2007. However, in January 2011, further Network Rail documents were brought to the ORR’s attention and, as a result, the investigation was reopened.

Ian Prosser, the watchdog’s director of railway safety, said: “After careful consideration and examination of Network Rail documents not previously seen by ORR, we have concluded that there is enough evidence, and that it is in the public interest, to bring criminal proceedings against Network Rail for serious breaches of health and safety law, which led to the deaths of Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson at Elsenham station footpath crossing in December 2005.”

“My thoughts are with the families of Olivia and Charlotte. ORR will do everything it can to ensure that the prosecution proceeds as quickly as possible.”

The first hearing is due to take place at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on 31 January.

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