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NETWORK RAIL PROSECUTED OVER FENCING FAILURES

Prevention of unauthorised access to railway not properly maintained

Network Rail has been fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £47,500 following prosecution for a health and safety offence brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

The company pleaded guilty to not preventing unauthorised access to the railway by failing to adequately maintain a trackside boundary fence in Whisby Nature Park, Lincolnshire.

Network Rail failed to take steps to maintain the fence despite clear signs of trespass. Internal inspections between 2006-2009 identifed poor conditions and legal proceedings were started after the regulator received a complaint from a member of the public.

Whisby Nature Park has over 100,000 visitors a year including adults, children, family groups and school parties. The nature trail path runs parallel to the railway boundary fence. In June 2009 a group of cub scouts between the ages of 8-10 visited the park and their leader noticed the damaged fence which left the railway exposed.

Public safety put at risk by “lax procedures”

ORR prosecuted Network Rail for failure to comply with its duty under regulation 3(1) of the Railway Safety (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 1997. This places a duty on Network Rail to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable and to the extent necessary for safety, that unauthorised access to railway infrastructure is prevented.

Deputy Chief Inspector at ORR Allan Spence said:

“ORR welcomes this conviction and today’s sentence – Network Rail missed several opportunities to repair an ineffective fence which created a risk to public safety. The regulator will not tolerate public safety being put at risk by lax procedures.

This was a sustained failure to properly act on the risk of people, and particularly children, straying onto the railway.

We will always press for sensible safety precautions, and take enforcement action – including prosecution – when necessary. Since our investigation started, I’m pleased to say Network Rail has replaced the fence through the park. But they could and should have made improvements earlier.”

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