APPEAL COURT judges last week cut Balfour Beatty's £10M fine for its part in the Hateld rail crash to £7.5M.
They ruled that the contractor was no more guilty than track operator Railtrack, now Network Rail. However, they decided against reducing the ne to the same a mount as the £3.5M imposed on the track operator.
The appeal judges upheld Balfour Beatty's claim that its ne was out of proportion to Railtrack's. Both were found guilty of health and safety breaches following the October 2000 derailment that killed four people and injured more than 100. 'We have decided that Balfour Beatty's fine should be reduced to £7.5M, thereby reducing the disparity between their ne and that of Railtrack, ' said the judges.
But they did not reduce the fine to the same as that imposed on Railtrack because it was felt that the public would consider this unjust. The judges described Balfour Beatty as a 'substantial company' that was paid £368M for the seven-year maintenance contract, which included the section of track at Hateld.
The judgement concluded: 'We cannot see why the judge could not properly have had regard. . . to the fact that the seriousness of Railtrack's failure to ensure that Balfour Beatty performed its duties was the greater because Railtrack had agreed in February 2000 - at the instigation of Balfour Beatty - that this section of the track needed replacing and knew, or should have known, that the replacement had not been effected.'
The original trial judge Mr Justice Mackay ruled that Balfour Beatty should pay a higher fine because it was two to three times more guilty than Railtrack (NCE 13 October 2005).
Judge Mr Justice Mackay also took into account the fact that Network Rail operates as a not-for-pro organisation when imposing the original penalty.