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Howard and Byrne Solicitors, York - Criminal Defence Specialists

York based Network Rail plead guilty to health and safety breaches

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6:57am 31st January 2012
(Updated 11:33am 31st January 2012)

Network Rail is to be prosecuted over the deaths of two girls at a level crossing six years ago.

Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13, were struck by an express train while on a Christmas shopping trip.

Network Rail have pleaded guilty to serious health and safety breaches over the incident.

Louisa has the latest:

 
Spokesman from The Office of Rail Regulation Ian Prosser said:

“After careful examination of documents not previously seen, we concluded there is enough evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring criminal proceedings.”

Olivia and Charlotte were killed at Elsenham station in Essex in December 2005.

The ORR claims there were safety failings which led to the girls opening the gates and walking on to the crossing.

The first hearing is due to take place at Chelmsford magistrates court in January.

Yesterday there were claims that York based Network Rail (NR) is to plead guilty to breaching health and safety laws at a level crossing where two teenage girls were killed. The claims come from the youngsters parents.

Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13, were hit by a speeding train in 2005 as they crossed train tracks at Elsenham station footpath crossing in Essex - just a few miles from where a 15 year old girl died in seemingly similar circumstances at the weekend.

Court proceedings against NR in relation to the double tragedy are due to begin at Basildon Magistrates' Court tomorrow, with Olivia's father claiming the transport authority has already informed him of its intention to admit criminal liability.

Chris Bazlinton said he was contacted by officials on Friday.

An NR spokesman confirmed both families had been contacted in relation to the case, but would not reveal how the company was going to plead.

News of the decision emerged after a 15 year old girl, named in reports as Katie Littlewood, was hit by a train at Johnson's Footpath Crossing in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, on Saturday.

Her death, which is being treated as a "tragic accident" by both NR and British Transport Police (BTP), occurred just a few miles down the same stretch of track where Olivia and Charlotte were killed six years ago.

NR said investigations were carried out on the crossing immediately after the 11.45am incident and showed no faults with the safety measures in place.

Flashing lights, audible warnings and signalling systems were all operational, a spokesman said, and there were no problems with the fence and gate at the crossing. "The crossing was shown to be in full working order," he said. An inquiry examining the full circumstances surrounding the death of the teenager, who is thought to be from Bishop's Stortford, has been launched involving officials from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.

BTP said:

"The incident is being treated as a tragic accident and it has been declared non-suspicious."

The Johnson's Footpath Crossing, which is separated from the footpath with a fence and gates on both sides, has signposts detailing safety instructions.

One shows a red and green traffic light and reads: "If no light - proceed with caution."

Underneath is another sign that says: "Cross only when green lights shows" and "Cross quickly".

A further sign says: "Do not cross when red lights show."

There is a traffic light behind the fence, just a few feet from the railway track. Olivia and Charlotte were killed in December 3rd 2005 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 in Essex, 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. In November last year, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) announced that it would prosecute NR over those deaths after reopening its investigation into the accident.

It came after the Transport Salaried Staffs Association joined the girls' families in demanding a public inquiry amid claims that two safety documents were not disclosed to the Essex Coroner at the 2007 inquest into their deaths.

NR faces two charges under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and one charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Now Network rail have released an updated statement:

David Higgins, chief executive of Network Rail, said:

“Last year I apologised in person to the families of Olivia and Charlotte. Today, Network Rail repeats that apology. In this tragic case, Network Rail accepts that it was responsible for failings, and therefore we have pleaded guilty.

“Nothing we can say or do will lessen the pain felt by Olivia and Charlotte’s families but I have promised them that we are committed to making our railway as safe as possible. In recent years we have reassessed all of our 6,500 level crossings and closed over 500. I accept that there is still a long way to go but we are making progress.”




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