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May 28, 2012

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Maintenance-worker incidents see Network Rail back in the dock

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.  

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Betsy234
Betsy234
12 years ago

Having worked for a company sub contracted to Network Rail I am never surprised when I read stories like this, whilst NR purport to be commited to health & safety I have witnessed blatant disregard for health and safety by senior managers simply to complete works within possession times thus minimising or preventing additional penalties and associated costs

Bob
Bob
12 years ago

Having spent many years as a Rail Safety Case Manager, I find it difficult io comprehend how RIMINI Planning got it so wrong, and that no individual is held accountable given the extent of Management / Supervisor control a typical possession entails.

If poor planning is deemed a significant factor, why are the planners not held accountable?

The article lacks detail so I am at a loss for a considered opinion.

I agree that the fine is low given the extent of the failure to control serious risk

Mark
Mark
12 years ago

Bob I feel your pain. When writing any article involving an ORR led prosecution I always contact the ORR press office for more information. Unfortunately they are not always timely in providing access the case investigator for more information.

Ray
Ray
12 years ago

I must agree with Bob Crow, it appears that a rail workers life is not as valuable as a member of the public. The disparity of £150k v £4m is clear for all to see.