Postal workers awarded £830,000 for fatal freight train crash

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The Independent Online

Seven postal workers were awarded £832,500 compensation yesterday for injuries they suffered in a collision between a freight train and a travelling post office.

One man died and 17 were injured in the crash near Stafford in March 1996 involving the Birmingham-Glasgow mail train. Railtrack and the contractor Engineering Link had previously admitted liability.

Yesterday payments were agreed at the High Court in London with seven of the 10 complainants, including the family of the dead man, John Thompson, from Glasgow. The payments ranged from £28,000 to £405,000. Gerwyn Samuel, counsel for the 10 claimants, had described how the Transrail freight train was derailed on its southbound route from Warrington after one of the train's wagon axles fractured. The driver of the travelling post office, containing 18 postal sorters and two managers, had no warning of the derailment and an "inevitable" and devastating collision occurred at "significant speed".

He told the judge that many of the claimants had feared for their lives. They were confronted with a white vapour and thought they would be "gassed, electrocuted, or blown up if the gas ignited".

Most of them had suffered "severe to moderate post traumatic stress disorder", Mr Samuel said.

He said: "In a thorough investigation by British Transport Police and the Health and Safety Executive there was no criticism of the rail infrastructure. It played no part in the cause of this accident.

"[The accident] is different from Hatfield, although in some ways very similar to Selby where for different reasons a freight train was derailed."

After hearing of the settlement the case was adjourned until Thursday for further discussions in relation to the three outstanding cases.

Previous settlements for eight other postal workers injured in the collision amounted to £112,925, making a total so far of £945,425.