Network Rail has been fined £800,000 at Guildford Crown Court for breaching health and safety laws after a track worker sustained multiple ‘life changing’ injuries when he was hit by a train.
The prosecution was brought by the ORR after the serious incident while the track worker was performing rail maintenance work near Redhill in Surrey.
ORR inspectors concluded that the track maintenance work along the main line between Brighton and London was inadequately planned and managed, falling below legal standards and putting workers at risk unnecessarily.
“This incident shows that although Britain’s railways are the safest in Europe, we can never be complacent,” said the ORR’s principal inspector Tom Wake.
“We continue to monitor the company. Our inspectors will not hesitate to step in if needed, to protect the safety of workers or members of the public.”
Guildford Crown Court heard that the urgent works, intended to address ‘metal fatigue’ to the track, were scheduled whilst trains continued to run close to a steep embankment where workers’ ability to retreat to a ‘position of safety’ when trains approached was compromised.
The court heard that the works could have been carried out at night instead when no trains would have been running, thereby limiting the risk to the workers.
Network Rail’s route managing director John Halsall said of the incident: “Safety is our absolute priority and it is clear that we fell short in this instance.
“Our staff and contractors play a vital role in keeping trains running in often difficult circumstances and we continue to strive to improve safety for them and our passengers.”
Network Rail pleaded guilty to two counts of breaching the Health and Safety Act 1974 and were fined £800,000 for their role in the incident.
The infrastructure owner has since undertaken a review of worker safety on this particular stretch of the railway such as banning track maintenance while trains are running, introducing better warning systems and providing better staff training.