Rail franchise operator fined for health and safety breaches

Franchise operator Merseyrail Electrics 2002 has been fined £85,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,970 after pleading guilty to breaches of health and safety law following a runaway train derailment on 30 June 2009. 

Sentencing at Liverpool Crown Court follows an Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) investigation into the incident, which led to a stationary train undergoing repairs at Kirkdale depot in Liverpool running onto the main line and crashing into a buffer and a wall. The runaway train is said to have narrowly avoided colliding with a passenger train.  

ORR’s investigation found that Merseyrail was aware of the risks involved in maintaining trains at depots following a similar runaway train incident at Birkenhead North on 11 January 2007.

Merseyrail had introduced procedures to control risks, but had failed to effectively supervise its workers to ensure that required safety standards were met.

Commenting on the case, Caroline Wake, ORR’s deputy chief inspector of railways, said: ‘Merseyrail failed in its duty to protect the safety and wellbeing of its staff and its passengers, and it is fortunate no one was seriously hurt.

‘ORR will not tolerate rail workers or passengers being put at unnecessary risk and we continue to press for improvements across the rail industry, taking appropriate enforcement action — including prosecution — when necessary.’