The High Court has fined Network Rail £4M for the failings of its predecessor Railtrack in the 1999 Ladbroke Grove crash which killed 31 people.
Network Rail admitted to failings under the 1974 Health & Safety at Work Act in November 2006. Today's hearing at Blackfriars Crown Court imposed the fine and costs of £225,000.Prosecuting, Philip Mott QC said that the impact of the crash was akin to a terrorist attack, and that safety measures to prevent the accident could have cost as little as £100,000.Jonathan Duckworth, chairman of the Paddington Survivors Group said, 'It sends a message to all other companies. It was very clear from the evidence that the corporate culture at Railtrack was very poor indeed when it came to safety. It was not just individuals who were at fault. It was the whole company.'The Crown Prosecution Service dropped charges against individuals in December 2005 on the grounds that there was 'insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction'.In a statement Network rail again apologised for the failings of its predecessor. 'Network Rail is sorry for the failings of Railtrack some seven years ago that contributed to the tragedy at Ladbroke Grove. Network Rail accepts the fine imposed by the court today,' it reads.Network Rail added that since the crash a Train Protection Warning System that applies a train's brakes if it passes a signal at red has been installed across the network, reducing the risk of such accidents by 93% compared to 2001.Liberal Democrat shadow transport secretary Alistair Carmichael said of the fine, 'You have to wonder what purpose is served when one publicly funded body prosecutes what is effectively another, and then the fine is paid with yet more public money. The government is spending huge amounts of taxpayers' money on the railways with hardly any political accountability.'At 8.08am on the morning of 5 October 1999, a Thames Train approaching Paddington station passed through a red light at signal SN109. The driver of the train had apparently not seen the signal. Railtrack had been notified of difficulty in seeing this same signal as far back as 1995. The train hit a Great Western express train travelling in the opposite direction.