Category Archives: Accidents on Railways

Network Rail Fined for Breaching 1974 Safety at Work Act

Network Rail has been ordered to pay fines of £4m by Preston Crown Court because of the safety failings that caused the fatal train derailment in Grayrigg, Cumbria on February 23, 2007, which killed one passenger and injured 86 others. Network Rail is responsible for the upkeep of railways to an adequate standard and ensuring their safety. The firm accepted responsibility for the Virgin Pendolino tilting train which derailed near the remote village.

Network Rail pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act last month and a sentence has just been passed. The London to Glasgow express derailed at 95mph when it struck an inadequately maintained and defective set of points. All of the train’s nine carriages derailed.

The train’s wheels came off the tracks due to the failure of Stretcher bars responsible for holding the moveable rails a certain distance apart when the points are operated.  A Rail Accident Investigation Branch compiled a report following the crash and concluded that the poor maintenance of the failed points were the “immediate cause” of the derailment.

If Network Rail had not pleaded guilty then their penalty would have been £6m. The firm was also ordered to pay £118,037 costs. Chief executive of Network Rail, Sir David Higgins stated –

“Within hours it was clear that the infrastructure was at fault and we accepted responsibility, so it is right that we have been fined.”

The director of railway safety at the Office of Rail Regulation, Ian Prosser, had this to say about the incident with regards to the safety of British Rail –

“Britain’s railways are safe and are one of the safest in Europe. But there is absolutely no room for complacency. Where failings are found those at fault will be held to account and the entire rail industry must continue to strive for improvements to ensure that public safety is never put at a similar risk again.”