BLACKFRIARS CROWN Court this week heard how London Underground (LUL) management had 'sacrificed safety' on live train lines to keep trains running 'at all costs'.
The comments by Judge John Samuels QC came as he fined LUL £225,000 plus costs for offences under the Health & Safety at Work Act between 1998 and 2000.
LUL pleaded guilty in July to charges of forcing men to work on live rails while working on the Central Line near Loughton.
The court was told that it was only by chance that no one had been killed.
Sacked LUL supervisor Dave Elkington was ordered in July to compensate workers who received electric shocks after he threatened them with the sack if they refused to work on live lines.
Judge Samuels explained that the fine levied on LUL was just short of the maximum he could impose for non-fatal safety breaches without risk of appeal. It is the second highest ever imposed on LUL.
Although he accepted there had been some improvements since July, Judge Samuels added: 'A pattern of protracted disregard for basic safety procedures by senior management for so long must be marked by a heavy penalty.'
LUL director of safety Mike Strzelecki told NCE after the hearing: 'We had expected a fine of this magnitude, but are very disappointed over the incidents which occurred.' He stressed that safety matters were of paramount importance to LUL.
However, the men at the centre of the whistle blowing which led to LUL's conviction said they were disappointed with the compensation they received. LUL supervisor Elkington was ordered to pay up to £350 to each of a group of 13 men.
'The fine on LUL won't make any difference to them but we have lost out, ' said worker Rakie Kapoor who rang HMRI after complaints to managers failed.
All but two of his track gang working at Loughton were subsequently sacked by their agency. Although some later returned to work on the Tube, all were out of work for lengthy periods after the investigation began.
'If someone had died on the job, it would have been one of us charged with manslaughter.
Management knew what was going on but nothing happened, ' Kapoor said.