Trains firm admits Paddington guilt

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The Independent Online

Thames Trains faces unlimited fines after admitting serious breaches of safety legislation in the Paddington rail disaster.

The company was heavily criticised at the public inquiry into the crash for failing to ensure that its drivers were properly trained. A Thames Trains driver, Michael Hodder, drove through a red light on the morning of 5 October 1999 on his way out of the west London station and smashed into a First Great Western express, at a combined speed of 130mph, killing 31 people.

The company pleaded guilty at Bow Street magistrates' court in central London yesterday to two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The case was referred to the Old Bailey for sentencing.

The largest fine levied under the legislation against a single company - £1.5m - was imposed on Great Western Trains for its involvement in the 1997 Southall rail disaster in which seven people died.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is still considering whether to bring charges of manslaughter against directors of Railtrack, the now defunct infrastructure company, over its involvement in the Paddington crash. But the CPS has concluded that there is insufficient evidence for similar proceedings against individuals at Thames Trains.

In a statement yesterday Thames Trains said it had entered the guilty pleas at the earliest available opportunity and that it was consistent with the "open and self-critical" approach adopted after the crash.

Maureen Kavanagh, chairman of the Safe Trains Action Group, said Thames Trains was still getting away with "bloody murder".

Louise Christian, a solicitor who acted for those injured and bereaved by the Paddington crash, said the families were happy with the result, but still wanted Railtrack to be held to account.