Uncle’s fury over fine for teen rail deaths

THE uncle of a teenager killed when she was hit by a train on a station footpath crossing has reacted angrily to the news Network Rail is to be fined just �1 million.

David Thompson, whose 13-year-old niece Charlotte Thompson along with her friend Olivia Bazlinton, 14, was killed at Elsenham Station in Essex in December 2005, described the amount as “ridiculous” and said it made a “mockery of the justice system”.

In Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday (Thursday), the company was handed the fine and ordered to pay costs of �60,015 following a prosecution brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for breaches of the health and safety law, which led to the deaths of two girls.

But Mr Thompson said: “My immediate reaction is that I am absolutely dumbstruck about this.

“This case has never been about wanting compensation, but it has been about wanting them (Network Rail) to be punished for what they have done – or rather for what they have not done.

“A million pounds is just pocket change to Network Rail and the fine makes a mockery of the whole thing. To me, this is a travesty of justice and I am really angry.”

In January, Network Rail pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching health and safety laws in relation to the incident. At the time, Mr Thompson called for action to improve safety on footpath crossings.

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Olivia and Charlotte were killed as they crossed a footpath leading to Elsenham 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.

Following yesterday’s sentencing, ORR’s director of railway safety, Ian Prosser, said it marked the end of the rail regulator’s criminal prosecution in relation to the tragedy.

He added: “Network Rail failed Olivia and Charlie and their families by not addressing the safety risks at the crossing, and the consequences were devastating. It is right that the company has apologised and pleaded guilty to breaches of health and safety law that led to their tragic and preventable deaths.

“Safety on Britain’s railways is my chief priority – and while Britain’s railways are safe, and safety is constantly improving, it is vital that the whole rail industry continues to work together to ensure that incidents such as this do not happen again.

“I would like to pay tribute to Olivia and Charlie’s families and to the inspectors at ORR for their dedication and perseverance over the years. I am determined that the whole rail industry focuses on pushing forward safety improvements.”