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Inspections under fire in Hatfield Inquiry

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AN EXPERIENCED railwayman acting as 'the eyes and ears' of senior engineers at the Hatfi eld rail crash site was sacked for incompetence months before the crash, a defence barrister said this week.

Defending Balfour Beatty civil engineer Nicholas Jeffries from manslaughter charges for October 2000's crash, Jonathon Goldberg QC pointed to the fact that Balfour Beatty route section manager Alan Deards was fi red in March 2000 after he made three inspections of the line.

He failed to report the extent of damage to the line to senior managers, said Goldberg.

'You were the eyes and ears of senior managers. They would rely on you to report track problems, ' Goldberg said to Deards at the Old Bailey.

'When you were sacked you were told that one of the reasons was that you weren't doing this properly.' Despite the state of the track, Deards admitted he allowed inspections to take place from a dip to the side of the line and had not insisted on extra patrols.

Deards told the court this week that the condition of line was the worst he had seen in 40 years on the railways.

An ultrasonic tester's comments on report forms revealed that serious defects were visible over a 600m section of the East Coast Main Line around the crash site.

Balfour Beatty ultrasonic tester David Handley said Deards should have seen all the ultrasonic fault reports, while Deards said he only looked at those which demanded action within between 36 hours and seven days. The case continues.

INFOPLUS Daily updates are posted at www. nceplus. co. uk

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