Network Rail fined £4million over fatal Grayrigg derailment
Metro: 04 April 2012
Network Rail has been fined £4million over health and safety breaches that led to the fatal derailment of a Virgin Pendolino train near Grayrigg, Cumbria, in 2007.
Margaret Masson, 84, from Glasgow, died from multiple injuries sustained when the 300-tonne London to Glasgow locomotive derailed at 95mph.
All nine carriages of the Class 390 tilting train came off the tracks, with 86 passengers and two crew members injured; 28 seriously.
Last month, Network Rail admitted safety failures in the lead-up to the derailment on February 23 2007, with a report blaming a badly-maintained and faulty set of points.
In admitting a charge under section 3(1) of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act at Preston Crown Court the publicly-funded body opened itself up to an unlimited fine, which was handed out at the same court today.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Swift said: 'This was a very serious offence and could have easily led to greater loss of life than actually occurred.'
The judge, who ordered the fine to be paid within 28 days along with £118,037 costs, said the fine would have been £6million if not for the guilty plea.
Mrs Masson's family put the blame for the crash squarely on the rail firm's management; while the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said the 'immediate cause' of the derailment was poor maintenance of the failed points.
Last month Network Rail was fined £1million for safety breaches after the deaths of two schoolgirls at a level crossing in Essex in 2005.
It also paid a £3million fine last year for the Potters Bar disaster in 2002 that left seven dead.
Network Rail chief executive commented: 'The Grayrigg derailment in 2007 resulting in the tragic death of Mrs Masson was a terrible event. Within hours it was clear that the infrastructure was at fault and we accepted responsibility, so it is right that we have been fined.
'Nothing we can say or do will lessen the pain felt by Mrs Masson's family but we will make the railways safer and strive to prevent such an accident ever happening again.'
Ian Prosser, director of railway safety at the Office of Rail Regulation, described the derailment as a 'devastating and preventable' incident.
'It tragically caused the death of Mrs Masson, and shattered the lives of others. My thoughts are with Mrs Masson's family and all those injured and affected by this horrific incident,' he said.
'Under Sir David Higgins' leadership, Network Rail is focused on driving safety measures and I welcome the company's progress on implementing safety recommendations made after this incident. But the pace of carrying out improvements has, at times, been too slow and the rail regulator has had to repeatedly push the company to bring about change.'
Outside court, solicitor Soyab Patel, speaking on behalf of Mrs Masson's family, including her daughter Margaret, said: 'The fine of £4million together with costs will ultimately be borne by the taxpayer.
'Mrs [Margaret] Langley is a taxpayer. Her mother died in the crash. She and her husband suffered serious injuries. She finds it offensive she is contributing to the fine.'
RMT union leader Bob Crow said the £4 million fine would come directly from the rail maintenance budget.
'Perversely, today's outcome makes another Grayrigg more likely while those in charge at Network Rail at the time have been honoured and have gone on to make fortunes,' Mr Crow said.
'The nonsense of this situation is that the Office of Rail Regulation who brought this prosecution are also the body demanding the cuts, as they have a blatant conflict of interest as both financial and safety regulator in the twisted world of rail privatisation.'