£4m health and safety fine for Network Rail over death on level crossing

The 82-year-old former actress was killed after being hit by a train at a level crossing in Suffolk

A £4m fine has been handed out to Network Rail, after the company admitted it had breached health and safety regulations, following the death of a former film actress on a level crossing in Suffolk.

The 82-year-old former actress, Brenda McFarland, who was known as Olive, was hit and killed by a train on the Gipsy Lane crossing, in Needham Market, Suffolk, back in August 2011.

Network Rail fined £4m after death of former actress at level crossing in Sufflok

£4 million fine for Network Rail over health and safety breach

Ms McFarland appeared in the 1961 film The Frightened City, alongside Sean Connery and also appeared in The Sweeney and dramas on the BBC.

At the time of her death, she was staying at a care home due to a fall but still made a daily trip to her Creeting St Mary farm to feed the chickens.

If Network Rail had not pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, Judge Martyn Levett said that the rail company would have been fined £6m.

Judge Levett said that a five second visual warning was given, to alert pedestrians that a train bound for Norwich was nearing the crossing but stated that children and vulnerable pedestrians crossing the railway line, could take around double the time to make it across.

Just before the death of Ms McFarland, the crossing had been judged as high-risk, according to the rail firm’s counsel, Prashant Popat.

It was suggested that a temporary speed limit be put in place to improve the safety at the crossing, firstly of 80mph and then 55mph but no action was taken.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), confirmed back in 2012, that Network Rail could have prevented the former actresses death by doing more.

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£130,000 fine for Network Rail amid health and safety failings

The company has been fined for health and safety breaches after a worker was hit by a 25,000 volt

The company, Network Rail, have been fined £130,000 for health and safety failings after one of their workers was hit by a 25,000 volt power surge whilst repairing an overhead line, close to Ardrossan South Beach Station.

The Network Rail worker, David McDermott, suffered “catastrophic injuries” in the incident, which occurred back in 2009.

The company admitted that they had failed to provide safe working documentation and did not make sure that work was only carried out on isolated areas of the line.

The crews that were carrying out the repairs in North Ayrshire, had been given a ‘hopelessly inaccurate’ work diagram by Network Rail, the court heard.

Network Rail fined for health and safety failings

A Network Rail safety poster

Since the incident, the company have improved their working systems, Kilmarnock Sheriff Court was told.

When the incident occurred back in 2009, Mr McDermott was working with a colleague in a mobile platform. He was fixing an isolated area of cable when he touched a live wire. Mr McDermott was hit by a 25,000 volt power surge.

Mr McDermott was severely injured as a result of the incident, causing serious loss of function and years of surgery, the court heard.

Mr McDermott’s injuries were described as ‘catastrophic’ by Sheriff Alistair Watson, who went on to say that no penalty would cover the price, or value of the suffering and pain that Mr McDermott still experienced.

“The obvious failure in the system, which is perhaps self-evident, is the fact that the schematic or diagram used as an essential guide for those involved in the repair operation was hopelessly inaccurate for a considerable length of time, despite it potentially being an issue of life and death importance, ” said Sheriff Alistair Watson.

The Sheriff also added that the diagram guide appeared to have been in constant use by those workers who trusted that their employer would keep them safe.

Putting it bluntly, this meant that a serious incident of this nature, whilst maybe not inevitable, was sooner or later, very likely.

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