15 September 2004
BRUSSELS – The Belgian rail company, SNCB, has been blamed for a 2001 rail tragedy that killed eight people, it was reported on Wednesday.
A three year police investigation found the SNCB was responsible for the accident at Pecrot on 27 March 2001, which also injured dozens of passengers.
The rail company has been fined EUR 99,157 and given a five year suspended sentence.
The fine will be waived on the condition that an equivalent sum is spent on improved safety measures over the next three years.
The lawyer representing the victims welcomed the verdict as a “significant judgement.”
“It is comforting that a police tribunal, considered to be the smallest link in the judicial chain returns a verdict that is so thorough and motivated,” she said.
Although the sum had been reduced drastically from the initial EUR 240,000 requested by one government minister, she said the impact of the judgement was more important.
Police powers have also been given a boost by being seen to be competent in ruling on rail issues.
SNCB spokesman, Mr Kuyper, did not reveal whether the company would appeal the decision.
“The SNCB did not wait for this verdict before reacting to the consequences of the catastrophe,” he said, stressing that the rail company had already gone ahead with compensation for the victims.
Kuyper said security procedures, including staff training, had already been improved since the accident.
Another hearing has been scheduled for 8 December to decide on compensation for the civil parties and to rule on their constitution, which has been contested by the SNCB.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news