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Half time in Hatfield case as prosecutors close

NEWS

PROSECUTION ARGUMENTS against the five engineers charged with manslaughter over the Hatfield rail crash drew to a close this week with evidence from the boss of train operator GNER.

The court heard how GNER chief executive Christopher Garnett was 'shaken rigid' by the fact that 80,000 of his passengers a week were allowed to travel at 115mph on defective track.

Four passengers died in October 2000 after a rail suffering from Gauge Corner Cracking (GCC) shattered beneath their high speed service from London King's Cross to Leeds on the East Coast Main Line (ECML).

'I was not aware that there was a backlog of maintenance defects on the ECML, ' Garnett said in a written statement read by lead prosecution barrister Richard Lissack QC. 'I had never heard of GCC before the crash.

'Obviously I since became aware that there should have been rerailing on this section and that the new rail was lying in the four foot.

'We were never approached for permission for a late possession for safety critical work. We would of course have agreed if it had been explained to us.

'I cannot think of one occasion where we said no to a possession on the grounds of passenger safety, ' he added. 'Safety must take precedence ahead of business.' Defence teams now have the chance to lodge a 'half-time' appeal to Mr Justice MacKay to throw out charges if they feel insuffi ient evidence has been presented (NCE 2 June).

The defence is expected to begin pleading its case on 7 July.

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