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Rail firm fined £4m for death crash

Network Rail has been fined £4 million over safety failures in the lead-up to the fatal Grayrigg train crash.

The firm, responsible for the upkeep of the railways, accepted it was at fault for the derailment which killed one passenger and left 86 others injured, 28 of them seriously.

Margaret Masson, 84, from Glasgow, died after a Virgin Pendolino London to Glasgow train crashed on the West Coast main line near the Cumbrian village of Grayrigg on the night of February 23, 2007.

Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd admitted a charge under section 3(1) of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act last month and was sentenced at Preston Crown Court on Wednesday.

The 300-tonne train derailed at 95mph after hitting a badly maintained and faulty set of points, with all nine carriages coming off the tracks. Stretcher bars holding the moveable rails a set distance apart when the points are operated had failed, causing the train's wheels to come off the tracks.

A Rail Accident Investigation Branch report confirmed the "immediate cause" of the derailment was poor maintenance of the failed points. But during the inquest into the death of Mrs Masson, held last year, details emerged of a catalogue of problems with maintenance within Network Rail.

Passing sentence, Mrs Justice Swift said if convicted after trial the penalty would have been £6 million but credit was given for the guilty plea. Network Rail was ordered to pay the fine, along with £118,037 costs, within 28 days.

Outside court, solicitor Soyab Patel, speaking on behalf of the Masson family, said: "The fine of £4 million together with costs will ultimately be borne by the taxpayer. Mrs (Margaret) Langley (Mrs Masson's daughter) is a taxpayer... She finds it offensive she is contributing to the fine."

Nicholas Hilliard, QC, representing the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), said the ORR accepted Network Rail had accepted its responsibility promptly, had co-operated fully with all investigations and that positive action had been taken to address the failures.

In a statement issued after sentencing, Network Rail chief executive Sir David Higgins said: "Nothing we can say or do will lessen the pain felt by Mrs Masson's family but we will make the railways safer and strive to prevent such an accident ever happening again."

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