Network Rail admits breaking health and safety laws over girls’ deaths

NETWORK Rail has admitted breaching health and safety laws at a level crossing where two teenage girls were killed.

Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13, were hit by a train in 2005 as they crossed the tracks at Elsenham station footpath crossing.

Today (Jan 31) Network Rail indicated guilty pleas to three charges under the health and safety act at Basildon Magistrates’ Court and was committed for sentencing.

Olivia’s father Chris Bazlinton said the move “proves that we have been lied to over the years”.

“I have no doubt Network Rail will change its procedures to ensure that action is taken when problems arise, and to avoid a cover-up happening again.

“But I think this should be transparent and open. I want to know what they are going to do to change the way they report on accidents and how they account for them.”

Network Rail said it would plead guilty to failing to carry out a sufficient risk assessment, failing to properly control protective measures at the level crossing and failing to prevent the girls from being exposed to the risks which led to their deaths.

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Olivia and Charlotte were on their way to catch a train for a Christmas shopping trip to Cambridge when they were killed on December 3 2005.

They had used the station footpath crossing, which is owned and operated by Network Rail, to reach the station platform. The crossing was fitted with warning lights and yodel alarms.

A London to Cambridge train passed over the crossing with the red lights and yodel sounding - a warning for foot passengers not to cross.

After the train passed, the lights remained on and the alarms continued to sound as another train, travelling from Birmingham to Stansted Airport, was going to pass through the station.

The girls opened the unlocked wicket gates and walked on to the crossing. They were both struck by the Stansted train and killed.

An investigation into the girls’ deaths, which was originally closed in May 2007, was reopened by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) in February 2011 when a further Network Rail document was brought to the rail regulator’s attention.

In November last year, ORR lodged three charges against Network Rail at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court – two charges under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and one charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

In a statement released after the hearing, David Higgins, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Last year I apologised in person to the families of Olivia and Charlotte. Today, Network Rail repeats that apology.

“In this tragic case, Network Rail accepts that it was responsible for failings, and therefore we have pleaded guilty.

“Nothing we can say or do will lessen the pain felt by Olivia and Charlotte’s families but I have promised them that we are committed to making our railway as safe as possible.

“In recent years we have reassessed all of our 6,500 level crossings and closed over 500. I accept that there is still a long way to go but we are making progress.”

The company will be sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court on March 15.