£200,000 for victims of London rail crash

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The Independent Online

A man who lost his daughter in the Paddington disaster on Friday condemned the "huge disparity" between the average £200,000 compensation paid to the bereaved and the £2m received this year by Gerald Corbett, former chief executive of Railtrack.

Robin Kellow, 62, whose daughter Elaine was killed, said: "Is it really just that the man who is responsible for the deaths of 31 people receives 10 times more than people who have lost their loved ones?"

The insurance company acting for Thames Trains has paid about £4m to relatives of 20 people killed when two trains collided in 1999. It is still negotiating with the families of the remaining 11 victims.

Because Mr Kellow's 24-year-old daughter was single, he will receive considerably less than £200,000. "Under English law independent people are not considered to be of great value. The relatives of breadwinners will receive much more and that's the way it should be.

"But we've never looked for compensation. There is no compensation for what happened. I want those people responsible for her death punished not rewarded."

Mr Corbett received a pay-off of £1.4m last year when he resigned from Railtrack in the wake of last October's Hatfield crash, and about £750,000 since he became executive chairman of Woolworths.

Denman Groves, 54, whose 25-year-old daughter, Juliet, was killed in the Paddington disaster, said the compensation payments of up to £750,000 for breadwinners with young children were "derisory", and the amounts on offer to those with independent children had been "insulting". He said: "Not only my daughter has been taken away from me but the grandchildren I never had. Our future lineage has been denied to us."

He said St Paul Insurance, the American-owned company which handled the claims, had treated the bereaved well initially by paying their expenses to attend the Cullen inquiry into the tragedy. "They fell at the last hurdle however and refused to pay for my daughter's gravestone," he added.

The size of claims depends on whether the victim was married, whether they had children, their age and what the likely loss in earnings would be.

The family of a young married businessman with two children received the highest payout to date of £750,000, said David Grimley, St Paul technical claims manager.

Railtrack said the compensation process aimed to get victims' families dealt with "quickly and fairly".

Yesterday a safety system deliberately derailed an empty train after it passed through a red signal.

The West Anglia Great Northern service was leaving sidings close to the busy London-to-Scotland route and the scene of the derailment at Hatfield, when it was stopped by "trap" points. Three coaches came off the tracks at about 6mph to 10mph, but remained upright and the driver was unhurt. Some in the industry have argued that similar traps should be placed after most signals, but it has been decided that it would cause too much damage at high speed.