The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has today started criminal proceedings against rail infrastructure owner and operator Network Rail for a breach of health and safety law which caused a train to derail near Grayrigg, Cumbria in 2007.
Network Rail is facing a charge under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 resulting from poor maintenance and inspection of fixed stretcher bar points.
The rail regulator’s prosecution follows the conclusion of its investigation into the derailment of the Virgin Pendolino passenger train, and the completion of the coroner’s inquest into the death of Margaret Masson, 84, who died in the crash. In November last year the inquest jury unanimously found that the derailment caused Masson’s death and that that derailment was caused by the degradation of the 2b set of points at Lambrigg, which had been poorly maintained.
The ORR’s charge
“Network Rail Infrastructure is facing one charge that, between 1 December 2005 and 24 February 2007, at the West Coast Main Line between Scorton and Scout Green, it failed to conduct its undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that persons not in its employment who may be affected thereby, including Margaret Masson, were not exposed to risks to their safety, in that it failed to provide and implement suitable and sufficient standards, procedures, guidance, training, tools and resources for the inspection and maintenance of fixed stretcher bar points.”
“Following the coroner’s inquest into the death of Mrs Masson, I have concluded that there is enough evidence, and that it is in the public interest, to bring criminal proceedings against Network Rail for a serious breach of health and safety law which led to the train derailment,” said ORR director of railway safety Ian Prosser. “The railway today is as safe as it has ever been but there can be no room for complacency. The entire rail industry must continue to strive for improvements to ensure that public safety is never put at risk.”
The train derailment near Grayrigg was the subject of investigation by the British Transport Police, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the ORR. The ORR assumed primacy for the investigation in February 2009.
Network Rail’s reponse
“The Grayrigg derailment in 2007, resulting in the tragic death of Mrs Margaret Masson, was a terrible event,” said Network Rail managing director of network operations Robin Gisby. “Network Rail has not hidden from its responsibilities – the company accepted quickly that it was a fault with the infrastructure that caused the accident. We again apologise to Mrs Masson’s family
“Since the derailment Network Rail has worked closely with the authorities, conducted comprehensive and detailed investigations and made substantial changes to its maintenance regime. Today there is no safer form of travel than rail and it is important that the rail industry seeks ways to make it safer still.”
In accordance with the Work Related Deaths Protocol, the rail regulator did not make a prosecution decision until after the conclusion of the coroner’s inquest and following the Crown Prosecution Service decision to revisit its earlier decision not to prosecute for serious criminal offences.
The first hearing is due to take place at Lancaster Magistrates’ Court on 24 February 2012. The maximum penalty the Magistrates’ court can impose for the offence is a fine of £20,000. If the case is committed to the Crown court, the maximum penalty that may be imposed for the offence is an unlimited fine.
On 23 February 2007, the 5.15pm Virgin Trains service from London Euston to Glasgow Central derailed on the West Coast Mainline near Grayrigg in Cumbria. There were 109 people on board. One passenger, Margaret Masson, was killed, and 86 were injured.