Network Rail fine ‘meaningless’

16 March 2012

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan says that the £1million fine imposed on Network Rail today is ‘meaningless’ because all it does, in effect, is to make less money available to ensure safe track and signalling.

‘The deaths of Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13 will long remain in our memories,’ Mick says. ‘But the fact is that a fine is not an adequate remedy.

‘Because Network Rail is a not-for-profit organisation, its shareholders do not suffer. Its managers do not suffer. In fact, only the travelling public is affected because there is less money to keep our railways safe.’

Mick says that until individuals are held accountable for safety failures, there is no compelling motivation for improvements. ‘We need to examine this whole situation carefully to ensure that the guilty, rather than the innocent, are punished,’ he says. ‘Merely shunting money from government to Network Rail back to government is meaningless.’

The two youngsters died at Elsenham station footpath crossing in Essex. Judge David Turner QC, sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court, concluded that there was a clear history of inadequate risk assessment and a failure to heed and act upon relevant information.

‘Narrow thinking, culpable corporate blindness and a complacency going beyond merely inefficient incompetency to entering the realm of criminal failure.’

The court heard that a safety official had raised concerns about the possibility of tragedy in a memorandum in 2001 but the document was not disclosed by Network Rail until last year.

‘Surely if a judge is talking about ‘criminal failure’, it is only reasonable to define where that criminality lay – and to act accordingly,’ Mick Whelan says.

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