Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Firms Face Up to Rail Tragedy Trial

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Firms Face Up to Rail Tragedy Trial

Article excerpt

Network Rail and maintenance firm Balfour Beatty were last night preparing to defend themselves and their employees against charges of manslaughter in connection with the Hatfield train disaster.

The Crown Prosecution Service said six managers from the two companies had been charged with four counts of manslaughter due to gross negligence and an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Network Rail, the successor to Railtrack, and Balfour have also been summonsed on corporate manslaughter offences.

Another six men received summonses under health and safety legislation, including the former chief executive of Railtrack, Gerald Corbett, now chairman of Woolworths.

The maximum sentence for individuals convicted of gross negligence manslaughter is life in prison, while the companies face unlimited fines if found guilty.

Only two large companies (P&O European Ferries over Zeebrugge and Great Western Railways over the Southall crash) have been charged with manslaughter in the past - and both cases failed.

Four people died on October 17, 2000, when a GNER express train derailed near Hatfield station in Hertfordshire.

The London-to-Leeds train derailed because of a broken rail, which both Railtrack and Balfour Beatty allegedly knew about beforehand.

Solicitors representing the injured and families of the victims welcomed news of the prosecutions, as did rail safety groups and unions.

But Balfour Beatty criticised the decision and defended its safety record. Network Rail also pledged to defend the company and its employees against the charges.

Mr Corbett said it was likely to be several years before the case was heard and he would defend himself "vigorously". "I was the chief executive when something went wrong, and that is why I immediately tendered my resignation," he said. …

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