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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 10:46 GMT
Rail crash firms to face charges
Flowers mark the spot of the Paddington crash
Thirty one people died in the head-on crash
Enough evidence has been gathered to prosecute both Railtrack and Thames Trains over the Paddington rail crash, it has emerged.

Survivors and those bereaved by the October 1999 crash have been told by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against both companies under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

But, there are still some doubts over whether the Crown Prosecution Service will proceed with manslaughter charges.

Aftermath, Paddington rail crash
CPS "still considering" court action
Thirty-one people died and 500 were injured in the accident in which a Thames train went through a red light and crashed almost head-on with a London-bound Great Western express at Ladbroke Grove, just outside Paddington in west London.

An HSE spokesman said: "A letter has gone out to the Paddington families.

"It tells them we have concluded there is sufficient evidence to bring charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act against Railtrack plc and Thames Trains.

Expert

"However, we are explaining we are not able to proceed because the CPS is still in its deliberations about possible prosecutions."

A CPS spokesman confirmed it was "still considering" the Paddington case and added: "We are taking advice from a university academic who is a leading expert on corporate manslaughter charges."

The CPS had originally said in October 2001 that no charges would be brought but the Paddington Survivors' Group had hoped it would change its mind.


The HSE needs to be given more teeth

Carol Bell, train safety campaigner

Both Railtrack and Thames Trains said they were unable to comment on the legal issues involved but a spokesman for Railtrack said the accident "will not be forgotten".

He added: "Lessons have been learned and many actions have been, and are being, taken to improve rail safety.

"The industry is forging ahead with the installation of Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) which secures substantial improvement in reducing the risk of signals being passed at red."

Incentive

Carol Bell, vice-chairman of the Safe Trains Action Group, who is a survivor of the Southall crash, said it was good news that sufficient evidence had been gathered but she said the HSE "needs to be given more teeth in cases like this".

Following the 1997 Southall rail crash in west London, in which seven people died, Great Western was fined 1.5m after pleading guilty to Health and Safety at Work Act charges.

Ms Bell said a fine nearer 25m would have been more appropriate "as an incentive to train companies to improve safety".

Larry Harrison, the Great Western driver who went through danger signals in the accident, was acquitted of seven counts of manslaughter.

Corporate manslaughter charges were brought against Great Western but the case did not proceed.

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The BBC's Nick Thatcher
"There is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges"
David Bergman, Centre for Corporate Accountability
"The concern is that the CPS has not looked at the evidence appropriately"
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