Network Rail fined �1 million over crossing deaths

NETWORK Rail has been fined �1 million for 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.

Judge David Turner QC, sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court today (Thursday), fined the firm responsible for the UK’s railway network �1 million and ordered it to pay �60,000 costs.

The company had pleaded guilty to three offences at Basildon Magistrates’ Court in January.

Following the sentencing, 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.

“Fundamental changes to the way we manage and look after the country’s 6,500 level crossings have, and are being made. In recent years we have reassessed all of our crossings and closed over 500. There is still much to do and we are committed to doing what is necessary to improve our level crossings.”

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Network Rail pleaded guilty to 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, which were brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) in November.

The firm admitted 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.

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 ORR in February 2011 when a further Network Rail document was brought to the rail regulator’s attention.