British rail operator fined £3 mln for 2002 crash

13th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's rail infrastructure operator Network Rail was fined £3 million (3.5 million euros, $5 million) on Friday for safety failings in a train crash in 2002 in which seven people died and more than 70 were injured.

Its predecessor company Railtrack was responsible for rail infrastructure at the time of the crash in Potters Bar in Hertfordshire, north of London, but Network Rail was prosecuted.

The high-speed train was travelling at 98 miles per hour (158 kilometres per hour) when it derailed just outside the station and ploughed into one of the platforms.

Six passengers and an 80-year-old woman who was walking near the station were killed.

Faulty points were blamed for the disaster.

Judge Andrew Bright told St Albans Crown Court that Railtrack's procedures and standards were "seriously inadequate" and that the faulty points "could and should have been identified sooner".

"Overall responsibility for the breach of duty lay with Railtrack at senior management level and their failures were significant and extensive," he added.

Network Rail said it was "truly sorry" after the court case, which fell in the week of the ninth anniversary of the disaster.

Railtrack and Network Rail were accused of serious errors in the installation and maintenance of adjustable stretcher bars which regulate the moveable section of track points, keeping them at the correct width for train wheels.

Network Rail has no shareholders and its debt is guaranteed by the government, meaning that any fine imposed on it effectively comes from the public purse.

Speaking after the hearing, Perdita Kark, the daughter of victim Austen Kark, said: "It's offensive that I pay a fine for something that killed my father.

"Directors of the two companies should have been in the dock as individuals and they should have paid out of their own purses."

© 2011 AFP

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