Network Rail has been fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £32,500 following a prosecution brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for breaches of health and safety law which led to the death of one Network Rail maintenance worker, and the serious injury of another, in two incidents that took place in the Thames Valley region.

On 29 April 2007, in the Ruscombe area near Twyford, track maintenance worker Charlie Stockwell was struck by a train and killed whilst conducting welding work.

The following year, on 23 May at Kennington Junction near Hinksey, track maintenance worker David Coles was also struck by a train, and severed his leg, while testing the locking mechanism on track points.

The sentencing at Reading Crown Court follows an ORR investigation into the two incidents, both of which involved ‘Red Zone’ working (work carried out on lines where trains continue to run).

ORR’s investigation found that Network Rail had ‘failed to ensure the safety of its employees working on the sites’.

Since the incidents, Network Rail has made a number of changes to improve safety for its track maintenance workers. These include progress in reducing the amount of ‘Red Zone’ working.

In the last two years Network Rail has increased the amount of maintenance work carried out at times when no trains are running from 50% to 75%. Additionally, tests on the locking mechanism of points are now carried out at a time when no trains are running.

Commenting on the case, Tom Wake, ORR’s deputy director of railway safety said:

“Network Rail’s poor planning and inadequate management of track maintenance work on the railway in the Thames Valley area led to the death of one worker and the serious injury of another in two separate, yet similar, incidents. These were serious failings on Network Rail’s part with tragic consequences.

“We acknowledge that Network Rail has made a number of changes to improve safety for track workers since these incidents. But as the failings were significant, Network Rail must be held to account.”

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