£13.5m fines for 'negligence' before Hatfield crash

The fines flagged up the seriousness with which the justice system now treats safety failings where the public are at risk.

The penalties were immediately welcomed by both passenger safety groups and unions.

Engineering giant Balfour Beatty - responsible for track maintenance at the time - was fined £10 million and Network Rail £3.5 million for breaking safety rules before the crash.

The companies were also ordered to pay £300,000 each in costs.

Until today, the largest fine ever imposed in the English courts was £2 million on Thames Trains following the 1999 Paddington rail crash. The company had pleaded guilty to two health and safety charges.

This summer gas utility company Transco was fined £15 million in Scotland after a leaking gas main led to an explosion that killed four members of a family.

Sentencing them, Mr Justice Mackay - who has spent 30 years involved in similar cases - said he had guarded against over-reaction in sentencing.

"But I regard Balfour Beatty as one of the worst examples of industrial negligence in a high risk industry I have seen.

"These were breaches of a general duty to the public at large. Something over three-quarters of a million passengers would have been put at risk by passing over this area.

"Both companies fell below appropriate standards. Balfour Beatty's failure lay at the top of the scale."

Balfour Beatty is no longer in the business of railway maintenance as Network Rail has taken over from Railtrack and taken maintenance "in house".

He said: "No one can predict the future, but the risks of such a tragedy had been reduced by the action of Network Rail.

"The elimination of one of the indefensible features of the 1996 privatisation - the separation of the ownership and control of the track from its maintenance - is now gone. Perhaps that is one good thing resulting from this disastrous affair."

Network Rail was convicted of breaching the Health and Safety Act last month and Balfour Beatty had admitted the charge earlier.

Four people died and 102 were injured when the King's Cross to Leeds train came off the tracks at 115mph on October 17 2000.

The prosecution maintained the derailment was an accident waiting to happen and occurred because of a cavalier approach to safety.

In evidence, some maintenance and track inspection practices were described as a Fred Karno circus and a shambles.

The rail which broke - causing the train to fly off the track - had disintegrated.

Defective monitoring meant it had been left virtually uninspected in the months before the crash.

Mr Justice Mackay said the failures affected a substantial part of a busy high speed line for 21 months.

The severity of the fines imposed today on Network Rail and Balfour Beatty over the Hatfield train crash were welcomed by the Safe Trains Action Group (Stag).

Stag vice chairman Carol Bell said: "We have said that there have to be bigger, swingeing fines for companies and it's good to see that there have been in this case."

Mrs Bell, who was injured in the 1997 Southall train crash which claimed seven lives, added: "There was a record fine (of £1.5 million for the Great Western train company) after Southall and I am pleased that much higher fines have now been handed out.

"The size of these fines sends a message to companies that they must take full regard of safety."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Today's decision shows that the courts are now beginning to take health and safety breaches more seriously. But the families of those killed will still feel cheated that no senior executives are to face punishment as a result of their safety crimes.

"The Government urgently needs to address the fact that all the courts can do in a case like this is to fine a company.

"What is necessary is both a new offence of corporate killing, with a wider range of penalties available, and new legal duties that make directors directly responsible for the health and safety of their staff and customers."

The judge highlighted the problem of fining a company which has no shareholders where "the profits it makes are all ploughed back into the railway system.

"In reality therefore, every £1 fined is a pound they cannot spend on railway safety."

Ordering the companies to pay towards the prosecution costs - estimated alone to be £8.5 million - Mr Justice Mackay said the disaster led to a massive investigation.

There had been national concern "over the third of a sorry quartet of rail accidents at the turn of the century".

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
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
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
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
Latest stories from i100
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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary