Friday, 7 March 2014

Network Rail, Level Crossing Safety, Apology, Reg Thompson, Transport Select Committee Report

Network Rail says sorry to bereaved families of people killed in railway level crossing accidents. But only after politicians say the company 'must apologise'.
Paul Coleman reports.

Floral tributes at Elsenham station where a train killed two teenage friends
at a footpath level crossing more than eight years ago (© London Intelligence)

A 'sorry apology'

Network Rail's new chief executive Mark Carne offers a "full and unreserved apology" to families bereaved by level crossing accidents (7 March).
However, Reg Thompson, father of 13-year-old Charlotte Thompson, describes Network Rail's apology as "utterly meaningless".
  Carne apologises for "failings" in managing public safety risks at level crossings and for "failing to deal sensitively sensitively" with bereaved families. 

But Carne's apology comes only as a reaction to scathing criticisms of Network Rail's handling of past tragedies - contained in a damning report published today (7 March) by a cross-party group of MPs on the House of Commons Transport Select Committee.
  In their report, MPs say Network Rail must provide information about why it failed to disclose key documents about a tragedy at Elsenham to investigators and to a coroner. 
  The documents, revealed only by a whistleblower, led to Network Rail being found guilty of health and safety breaches and a £1 million fine over the deaths of two teenage friends - Charlotte Thompson and Olivia Bazlinton - at Elsenham level crossing in December 2005.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne

Reg Thompson, father of 13-year-old Charlotte Thompson, describes Network Rail's apology as "utterly meaningless".
"We didn't hear anything at all from Network Rail for five and a half months after the accident," recalls Thompson. 
"Whereas we received support and messages of real compassion from the train companies, Central Trains and 'one' Railway.

"Network Rail did nothing, said nothing," adds Thompson. "Eventually we received a kind of standard letter from the then chief executive John Armitt, who said 'we're sorry for your loss', and that was that.
  "The company then went on to protest its complete innocence for a number of years, saying it played no part in the deaths of my daughter Charlie and her friend Liv. 
  "Only after the well-publicised court case in March 2012 when Network Rail was found guilty of breach of health and safety and negligence and incompetence in the deaths of our daughters- and was fined one million pounds - did the then chief executive Sir David Higgins personally say he was sorry.

"But the company has never apologised."

As for the apology on 7 March from the new chief executive Mark Carne, Thompson says: "I  very much hope that Mark Carne is a decent and serious human being - and I appreciate what he is trying to do.
  "But to have an apology eight years and three months after the accident - that had only come forth because a Transport Select Committee report has been utterly damning of Network Rail's behaviour and forced them to do so - is not a real apology.

"An apology is important. 
"To have said 'sorry' after the accident would have meant something. 
"But now, and within this context, it's utterly meaningless."

Note: In 2012-13, nine people - including four pedestrians - died in accidents at level crossings.

Letting children skate on thin ice (Photo: © Simon Weir)

More about level crossing safety after Elsenham, see the London Intelligence report: 

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, March 2014

No comments: