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June 13, 2012

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Huge fine for Network Rail over level-crossing fatality

Network Rail has been ordered to pay more than £375,000 in fines and costs following its fourth health and safety prosecution in as many months.

Southampton Crown Court heard that Julia Canning, 55, was killed when she was struck by a train at Fairfield footpath and bridle-way crossing, near Little Bedwyn, Wiltshire, on 6 May 2009.

Mrs Canning, a mother of three and the sister-in-law of comedienne Ruby Wax, was walking her two dogs over the crossing when she was struck by the First Great Western 17:11 service travelling from Newbury to Bedwyn. One of her dogs was also killed in the collision.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) investigated the incident and discovered that Network Rail had failed to act on substantial evidence that pedestrians using the crossing had insufficient sight of approaching trains. Pedestrians were therefore exposed to an increased safety risk when using the crossing.

ORR deputy director of railway safety Tom Wake described the incident as “devastating and avoidable”. He said: “ORR’s investigation found extensive evidence showing that Network Rail knew that the crossing was unsafe for pedestrians. Not acting to minimise the known risks was a serious failing on Network Rail’s behalf.

“We recognise that Network Rail has now made a number of improvements at this crossing, making it safer for pedestrians. Safety is the regulator’s top priority, and we continue to push Network Rail and the industry to deliver safety improvements at all level crossings.”

Network Rail appeared for sentencing at Southampton Crown Court yesterday (12 June), having pleaded guilty at Salisbury Crown Court on 10 January to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £356,250 and ordered to pay £19,485 in costs.

After the hearing, a Network Rail spokesperson said: “Since this incident, we have made a number of improvements at the crossing, making it safer for pedestrians, including installing whistleboards and improving sighting and the surface of the crossing, something recognised by the rail regulator.

“Network Rail, through a national programme, continues to reduce risk by improving or even closing crossings, and through advertising and a dedicated community safety team, works locally to raise awareness of level-crossing safety.”

Last month Network Rail was fined £150,000 following two separate ‘red zone’ incidents, in which one worker died and another was seriously injured when they were struck by moving trains. In April, Network Rail was fined a record £4m in relation to a fatal derailment in Cumbria, while in March, it was handed a £1m fine over the death of two girls on a level crossing in Essex.

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11 years ago

Once again the taxpayer is being fined for the failures of a company where the directors act with impunity.

In a year when Network Rail is being fined repeatedly for serious Health and Safety failings why are the directors of the company even being considered for bonuses. Surely they should only be considered for a bonus when no-one staff, passengers or pedestrians are hurt or killed and when the network doesn’t suffer from any delays or faults.

11 years ago

I think it rather frustrating, railways are known dangerous places. Indeed spending some time in France, there were many lines are unfenced, the locals including the kids learned that, like crossing the road, it is a dangerous thing to do. So tell me are going to fence off all roads, put up signs telling drivers to hoot the horns every time they see a pedestrian? Then what? Rivers and lakes! Ridiculous!

11 years ago

Network Rail should specialise in shutting empty stable doors. Their policy is obviously to wait until someone gets killed, then do something about it.

11 years ago

Hardly a “huge fine” SHP. “Paltry” would be more appropriate given yet another tragic and avoidable loss of life and the huge finacial resorces of Network Rail . I am well aware that the financial penalty will never measure up to the loss felt by a bereaved family, but given the fines referred to later in the same report I hope the ORR will be considering an appeal against the apparent leniency of this penalty.

11 years ago

I regularly use a gated crossing to cross as a pedestrian or in a car.
There is a sign,asking anyone crossing slowly to phone for clearance, and cross quickly if it is given After crossing , I then confirm to the signalman the gates are shut and the line clear.(Not asked for but he is always pleased to hear this)
Err, “Rocket Science”? ” The Obvious”?
– time we involve third parties in their own safety using existing resources and a little education? Comments, please?