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HEX report 'deeply flawed' claims Geoconsult's QC

THE HEALTH & SAFETY Executive's report into the Heathrow Express tunnel collapse (see page 10) is 'deeply flawed'according to the barrister who acted for tunnel designer Geoconsult.

Speaking at a conference on the report last month, Arthur Marriot QC branded the report an 'utterly misleading work' and called for the Institution of Civil Engineers to hold an independent conference at which Geoconsult would be able to present papers setting out the facts.

'There should have been a public inquiry, ' Marriot said. 'The technical information would then have been in the public domain and so subject to peer review.'

Geoconsult was convicted alongside Balfour Beatty in February 1999 for offences under the Health & Safety at Work Act and fined £500,000 plus £100,000.

However, the firm has so far refused to pay and, with Marriot's help, is now applying to the European Court of Human Rights to have its case heard.

Marriot argued that a legal case was not the right foundation for a technical report. 'The truth has two sides, 'he said.

'It is probably too late to have a public inquiry but, under the auspices of the ICE, a proper conference needs to be held at which papers can be presented.'

However, HSE chief inspector of construction Keith Myers rejected Marriot's claims, arguing the report was a fair representation of the HSE's investigations.

'I have more faith in the British judicial system than Mr Marriot, 'he said.

The HSE also accepted that it had much to learn about its involvement in major projects such as Heathrow Express, especially where new techniques are tried for the first time.

Professor Rodger Evans, project director for HSE's investigation in the HEX collapse, said: 'We have learnt from this experience and invested a lot of time and money. If we were looking at this project again we would certainly be more penetrating and searching with our questions.'

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