Hatfield rail fault `known for 21 months'

RAIL COMPANIES knew nearly two years before the Hatfield train disaster that the rail which caused the crash was defective, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

Richard Lissack, QC, told the court that the five managers facing manslaughter charges had adopted a "cavalier approach" to safety and "failed very badly" in their duties.

The state of the track was such that King's Cross station would have been closed if work had been conducted according to the book. Some 200 faults had been discovered in the first 43 miles from the London station.

The derailment, in which four people died, was a "disaster waiting to happen", Mr Lissack told the court. If speed restrictions had been implemented, the accident would have been avoided, he said.

Six months before the crash a new rail was sitting alongside the defective line but was never fitted, the court heard. A fault had been discovered at the site 21 months before the crash.

The five executives held responsible - three from Railtrack, which later became Network Rail, and two from the engineering company Balfour Beatty - deny manslaughter. They are Alistair Cook, 50, and Sean Fugill, 50, Railtrack London north-east zone asset managers; Keith Lea, 53, a Railtrack track engineer; Anthony Walker, 46, regional director of Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Ltd and Nicholas Jeffries, 53, a civil engineer with Balfour Beatty. They also deny further charges under the Health and Safety Act.

Balfour Beatty denies a corporate manslaughter charge and Network Rail denies health and safety charges.

The Old Bailey heard that the track was in such a poor state on 17 October 2000 that the rail broke into 300 pieces as the 12.10 King's Cross to Leeds express passed over it at 115mph. Mr Lissack said the main focus of the prosecution on the manslaughter charge would be on the defendants' individual involvement in the four and a half months before 17 October.

He said the five men had realised there were a large number of defects which should have been repaired. "The only proper way of dealing with the extremely serious situation was to follow the book of rules of what to do when you have defects. But these defendants chose to go outside the rules."

Mr Lissack said that in June 2000, Mr Walker and Mr Lea met to discuss "the dreadful state of the east coast mainline southern end and how to deal with the long-outstanding backlog of faults, including this track site". They agreed the "clock" would be turned to zero. "All the faults that were overdue for repair were wiped out in the sense that fresh time- limits were brought in to address the backlog which built up."

He said all those charged with manslaughter were complicit in that arrangement. "They knew of it and approved of it and got away with operating a system of crisis management which was far outside the codified approach of doing it by the book."

Between them they had 100 years of experience and their colleagues had described them as diligent, experienced railwaymen who worked hard and did their best. The prosecution said failing to discharge their roles had contributed to the four deaths. "Was this whole sorry tale, with its tragic twist, one in which no one in this court, human or corporate, is not criminally to blame?" asked Mr Lissack.

The 17 October crash had proved to be "a seminal moment in the short troubled history of Britain's privatised railway system". Hundreds of speed restrictions were imposed all over the country in the wake of the disaster. Engineers tried to discover whether "gauge corner cracking", a particular form of rail fatigue which caused the Hatfield derailment, was widespread.

The four victims were Robert Alcorn, 37, and his manager Steve Arthur, 46, both pilots; Paul Monkhouse, a 50-year-old company director and Leslie Gray, 43, a solicitor.

The trial continues today.

MANAGERS IN DOCK THEROCKERS

Five senior managers each face four charges of manslaughter, relating to each of the victims, and a further count under the Health and Safety at Work Act. All charges are denied.

The three Railtrack managers are: Alistair Cook, 50, asset manager of the London North East Zone; Sean Fugill, 50, area manager, London North East Zone; and track engineer Keith Lea, 53. Each is accused of failing in his duty to take reasonable care for the safety of the train passengers. This is said to have amounted to gross negligence which materially contributed to the victims' deaths. The health and safety charge accuses them of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of passengers. The two Balfour Beatty managers, civil engineer Nicholas Jeffries, 53, and regional director Anthony Walker, 46, face similar charges.

Railtrack is charged that it "failed to conduct its undertaking ... to ensure ... that persons who travel by train ... were not thereby exposed to risks to their health and safety". Balfour Beatty faces a similar charge and also a charge of corporate manslaughter.

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil