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NETWORK RAIL PROSECUTED OVER MAINTENANCE DEATH

Two ‘Red Zone’ working incidents caused death and serious injury

Network Rail has been fined £150,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £32,500 following a prosecution brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) following incidents hich led to the death of one Network Rail maintenance worker, and the serious injury of another in 2007.

Track maintenance worker Charlie Stockwell was struck by a train and died whilst conducting welding work. The following year track maintenance worker David Coles was also struck by a train severing his leg whilst testing the locking mechanism on track points. 

Both incidents involved ‘Red Zone’ working (work carried out on lines where trains continue to run). Network Rail has now made changes to improve safety for track maintenance workers including progress in reducing the amount of ‘Red Zone’ working.

The amount of maintenance work carried out at times when no trains are running has increased from 50% to 75% over the last two years and tests on the locking mechanism of points are now carried out at a time when no trains are running.

Serious failings with tragic consequences

Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd was pleaded guilty to a contravention of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Commenting on the case, Tom Wake, ORR’s deputy director of railway safety said:

“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.

We acknowledge that Network Rail has made a number of changes to improve safety for track workers since these incidents. But as the failings were significant, Network Rail must be held to account.”Notes to editors

Alex Gordon, National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) President said:

“The 5-year timescale in bringing the successful prosecution is an insult to the families and colleagues of our members affected by the tragedies. This fine is dwarfed by the £201,000 received by the outgoing Chief Executive of the company in the 2007.

The ORR which brought the prosecution was responsible for authorising cuts to Network Rail expenditure leading to a failure to recruit and train staff and sets the scene for both these tragedies. The ORR is both financial controller and safety regulator in the incestuous world of rail privatisation.”

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