Elsenham: Father vows to expose Network Rail cover-up over crossing deaths

THE father of a girl who was killed along with her best friend at Elsenham station has vowed to expose what he believes was a “cover-up” by Network Rail bosses.

Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13, died after the two were struck by a train at a footpath crossing in December 2005.

Last week at Chelmsford Crown Court, Network Rail was fined �1million and ordered to pay �60,000 costs after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety laws at the level crossing.

But it took more than six years of campaigning by the girls’ parents for the firm responsible for the UK’s rail network to be held accountable for the failings which led to the teenagers’ deaths.

Olivia’s father, Chris Bazlinton, called the fine “nothing more than symbolic”.

“Justice cannot be done after you have lost your daughter but the process of justice has gone ahead,” he said

Calls for a public inquiry

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Speaking to the Reporter, Mr Bazlinton said he would now turn his attention towards unearthing what he believes was a “cover-up” by Network Rail and has called for a public inquiry into how it took more than five years for “key” safety documents to be exposed.

“If it looks and smells like a cover-up, and everything points to suggesting it was, it means it probably was a cover-up. That is my next aim, to get to the root of that,” he said.

“I would still like to know the full story. Who knew about these documents? What happened to them? Nobody has so far been able to say, and I do not think that is good enough.

“Why is it that the three most important documents in the case happened to be one’s that nobody received? It beggars belief that it was just an accident.

“If those people in charge did not have a proper idea of what was going on and did not know about the documents, then it shows an inexcusable level of incompetency and I think they should go.

“I would not want those people in charge of running our railways.”

“Culpable corporate blindness”

Judge David Turner QC, sentencing, said there was “a clear history of inadequate risk assessment” and “a failure to heed and act upon relevant information and earlier specific warnings”.

“What emerges…is culpable corporate blindness and a complacency going beyond merely inefficient, or even occasional incompetence, but entering the realm of criminal failure,” he added.

Safer crossings promise

After the hearing, Network Rail chief executive Sir David Higgins said: “On behalf of Network Rail I apologise for the mistakes made by us in this tragic case that contributed to the deaths of Olivia and Charlotte.

“Nothing we can say or do will lessen the pain felt by Olivia and Charlotte’s families but I have promised the families that we will make level crossings safer, and we will deliver on that promise.”

He added that “fundamental changes” were being made to the management of the country’s 6,500 level crossings and that over 500 had been closed in recent years.

“There is still much to do and we are committed to doing what is necessary to improve our level crossings.”