NR fined £1m over crossing deaths
Network Rail was accused of "corporate blindness" after being fined £1 million for breaching health and safety laws at a level crossing where two teenage girls were killed.
Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13, were hit by a train in 2005 as they crossed the tracks at Elsenham station footpath crossing in Essex.
Judge David Turner QC, sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court, ordered Network Rail to pay the large fine and £60,000 costs. He said: "I have concluded that there was a clear history of inadequate risk assessment and a failure to heed and act upon relevant information.
"There was a consistent failure to take timely remedial action - a consistent underplaying that this crossing was being regularly misused. Warnings went unheeded, data insufficiently appraised and critical questions went unasked and unanswered. Remedial action was unsatisfactorily delayed."
He added: "Narrow thinking, culpable corporate blindness and a complacency going beyond merely inefficient incompetency to entering the realm of criminal failure."
Chelmsford Crown Court heard that Olivia and Charlotte were killed on December 3 2005 as they crossed a footpath leading to Elsenham station platform. The court was told that the pair "seemed happy" and were chatting and holding hands moments before their deaths. The crossing was fitted with warning lights and 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.
Mitigating, Parshant Popat QC, said there had since been a £2 million footbridge put over the Elsenham track, there were ticket machines on both sides of the platform - to prevent any unnecessary crossings - and the pedestrian wicker gates locked at the same time as the ones preventing vehicles from crossing.
Network Rail chief executive Sir David Higgins said: "On behalf of Network Rail, I apologise for the mistakes made by us in this tragic case that contributed to the deaths of Olivia and Charlotte."