Rail firm fined £4m for deadly crash on faulty line

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Network Rail was fined £4m yesterday over safety failures in the lead-up to the fatal Grayrigg train crash.

The firm accepted it was at fault for the derailment which killed one passenger and left 86 others injured, 28 of them seriously.

Margaret Masson, 84, from Glasgow, died after a Virgin Pendolino London to Glasgow train crashed on the West Coast main line near the Cumbrian village of Grayrigg on the night of February 23, 2007.

Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd admitted a charge under section 3(1) of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act last month and was sentenced at Preston Crown Court yesterday.

The 300-tonne train derailed at 95mph after hitting badly maintained and faulty points. Stretcher bars holding the moveable rails a set distance apart had failed, causing all nine carriages to come off the tracks.

A Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report confirmed the “immediate cause” of the derailment was poor maintenance.

During the inquest into the death of Mrs Masson, held last year, details emerged of a catalogue of problems with maintenance within Network Rail.

Passing sentence, Mrs Justice Swift said: “This was a very serious offence and could have easily led to greater loss of life than actually occurred.”

The judge said if convicted after trial the penalty would have been £6m but credit was given for the guilty plea.

Network Rail was ordered to pay the fine, along with £118,037 costs, within 28 days.

In a statement Mrs Masson’s granddaughter said the manner in which she died was “bitter” because it could have been avoided.

Nicholas Hilliard, QC, representing the Office of Rail Regulation, summarised a victim impact statement from Margaret Jones.

“She explains how mother and father also received serious injuries in the same incident and spent time in hospital,” he said.

“She says her mother is still in pain and taking medication and could not return to work.

“She describes a much-loved grandmother, dreadfully missed by all the family. At 84 she was still active and independent, and an integral part of the family.

“The manner in which she died is bitter because she feels it could have been avoided.”

Solicitor Soyab Patel, speaking on behalf of the family, said later: “The fine of £4m together with costs will ultimately be borne by the taxpayer.

“Mrs (Margaret) Langley (Mrs Masson’s daughter) is a taxpayer.

“Her mother died in the crash. She and her husband suffered serious injuries. She finds it offensive she is contributing to the fine.”

The inquest had heard that maintenance supervisors had complained of a “shambles”, of being overworked, under-staffed and not having the right tools or enough time under a “bully boy” management style.

Mrs Masson’s family put the blame squarely on management saying maintenance workers were “scapegoats”.

Last month Network Rail was fined £1m for safety breaches after the 2005 deaths of two schoolgirls at a level crossing in Essex and paid a £3m fine last year for the Potters Bar disaster in 2002 which left seven dead.

In a statement issued after sentencing, Network Rail chief executive Sir David Higgins said: “Nothing we can say or do will lessen the pain felt by Mrs Masson’s family but we will make the railways safer and strive to prevent such an accident ever happening again.”