Huge fine for Network Rail after Musselburgh schoolboy suffered serious burns

Network Rail has been fined £135,000 after admitting health and safety breaches that led to a 13-year-old boy suffering serious injuries.

Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 5:18 pm
The incident happened near where the A1 road crosses the railway line between Monktonhall Junction and Millerhill Yard, East Lothian

The teenager was hurt after he had gained access to a railway track and climbed onto the roof of a stationary train near Musselburgh, East Lothian.

The boy and two friends had managed to reach the track after climbing over fencing that was subsequently found to be “of an inappropriate type, of insufficient height and poorly maintained”.

Following the incident an investigation was launched by rail regulator Office of Rail and Road (ORR) which found the fencing to be faulty and members of the public able to access the track with “relative ease”.

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Fine: Network Rail fence

The ORR report also found there were “12 points of unobstructed access onto the railway” along the stretch of rail track between Monktonhall Junction and said Millerhill Yard.

A relating to potential health and safety breaches by Network Rail Infrastructure Limited was submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

And at Edinburgh Sheriff Court Network Rail pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 3(1) and Section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 between August 19, 2015 and August 19, 2016.

The company admitted failing to properly maintain and improve the railway boundary measures on the national railway network in the vicinity of where the A1 road crosses the railway line between Monktonhall Junction and Millerhill Yard, East Lothian.

The incident happened on in August 2016 on the railway track near Queen Margaret University. A group of teenagers entered the gap in the railway fence before the 13-year-old climbed onto the roof of a tank wagon on a freight train that was stopped at a set of signals.

He came close to the 25,000-volt overhead cable and received an electric shock that caused serious burns and spent weeks recovering in hospital.

ORR’s resulting investigation revealed that although there was clear evidence of trespass and graffiti in the area, the fence provided by Network Rail was substandard and poorly maintained, such that unauthorised access to the railway was straightforward.

The incident sparked the ORR report which found the “railway boundary measures, including fencing, to be poorly maintained and of inadequate type” at the site.

The report also stated the area “was overdue a boundary maintenance inspection” and Network Rail plans to upgrade the “inadequate” fencing “had not been undertaken”.

The report concluded: “The ORR risk profile at this location includes the reasonably foreseeable risk of being struck by trains moving at up to 30mph, and other physical risks including electrical risks from normally live overhead line equipment at 25,OOOV AC.”

The court was told following the incident Network Rail carried out urgent work to immediately install temporary fencing and then entirely replace the post and wire sections and “install 1.8 metre high Expamet fencing” in its place.

Following his deliberation Sheriff Alistair Noble sentenced the government-owned company - responsible for Britain’s rail infrastructure - to pay a fine of £135,000.

Responding to the proceedings, HM Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser said: "Network Rail has done a lot of work to limit the number of trespass issues on the railway and raise awareness of the potential life-threatening dangers that can follow.

"But on this occasion it failed to maintain an adequate boundary to stop people getting onto the railway track and preventing an incident like this occurring.

"The railway is an extremely dangerous environment and I would urge parents to talk to their children about its hazards and remind them to stay away from the tracks."

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The condition of our lineside fencing was identified as a factor in this incident and improving the boundary between rail and public land is an area where we have been investing increasing resources in recent years.

“We are committed to continuing to work hard to reduce unauthorised access to the railway and this has been recognised by the ORR. We work closely with the police, community organisations and local authorities to educate and inform the public about the risks present on the railway.”

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