In its third major health and safety prosecution in as many months Network Rail has been 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.
Both incidents took place in the Thames Valley region and involved work being carried out on lines where trains continued to run – known as ‘red zone’ working.
On 29 April 2007, track maintenance worker Charlie Stockwell was undertaking welding work on a track in Twyford, Berkshire, when he was struck and killed by a train.
The following year, on 23 May, David Coles had his leg severed when a train struck him. He was testing the locking mechanism on track points at Kennington Junction in Oxford, when the incident took place.
Network Rail appeared at Reading Crown Court on 25 May and pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay £32,500 in costs.
In mitigation, Network Rail said it made a number of changes to improve safety for its track maintenance workers. This included reducing the amount of red-zone working. It told the court that during the last two years it has increased the amount of maintenance work carried out at times when no trains are running from 50 per cent to 75 per cent. Additionally, tests on the locking mechanism of points are now carried out at a time when no trains are running.
A spokesperson for the company said: “Network Rail respects the verdict of the court and has apologised for its shortcomings. The judge acknowledged that we have made improvements to our maintenance regime. We will always strive to make further improvements.”
Speaking after the hearing, Office of Rail Regulation deputy director Tom Wake commented: “Network Rail’s poor planning and inadequate management of track maintenance work on the railway in the Thames Valley area led to the death of one worker and the serious injury of another in two separate, yet similar, incidents. These were serious failings on Network Rail’s part, with tragic consequences.
The Safety Conversation Podcast: Listen now!
The Safety Conversation with SHP (previously the Safety and Health Podcast) aims to bring you the latest news, insights and legislation updates in the form of interviews, discussions and panel debates from leading figures within the profession.
Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, subscribe and join the conversation today!