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October 6, 2011

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“It won’t happen again”, promises Network Rail after £80k fine

Network Rail has been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £32,000 after a train hit a collapsed public footbridge and came off the rails, injuring the train driver and all the passengers on board.

Leicester Crown Court, sitting on 3 October, heard that on 1 February 2008, a lorry delivering bulk material in darkness at 6am to a Network-Rail construction site near Barrow upon Soar station struck a footbridge over the railway with its upraised tipper, causing the bridge to collapse and block the rail line. A short while later, a train travelling from Nottingham to Norwich at 65 mph crashed into the debris and derailed.

The six passengers on the train suffered shock and minor injuries, while the train driver had to be freed from his cab by emergency services and sustained bruising, cuts and cracked ribs.

An investigation by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) found that Network Rail had failed to properly plan, manage, and supervise deliveries of ballast to its worksite. In this instance, the lorry had been allowed to drive along the site with its tipper body not fully lowered after emptying its load.

Commenting on the case, Allan Spence, ORR’s deputy chief inspector of railways said: “Network Rail’s poor planning and management of the construction site at Barrow upon Soar station placed the public, passengers and railway staff in great danger.

“Given the circumstances, it is very fortunate that no one on the train was seriously injured and that no one was crossing the footbridge when it collapsed.

“It is essential that incidents such as this never happen again. Since the time of this accident, Network Rail has made significant progress, acting on our recommendations to improve safety at its construction sites.”

Network Rail was fined £40,000 on each count for breaching s2(1) and s3(1) of HSWA 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of employees and non-employees. A third charge of breaching reg.5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 by failing to effectively plan, organise and control preventive and protective measures, did not carry a fine.  Network Rail had previously pleaded guilty to all three charges at Loughborough Magistrates’ Court.

After the sentencing, a spokesperson for Network Rail said: “Network Rail accepts that it should have done more to have prevented this accident. We did carry out risk assessments at the time, but we did not foresee the possibility of a lorry driver leaving site and failing to lower his tipper for several hundred yards – this is what happened and we should have done more.€

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