Hatfield fine reduced to £7.5m

24-08-2006

The engineering firm held responsible for the 2000 Hatfield train crash in which four people died has had its fine reduced by a quarter following the hearing of its case in the court of appeal.

The court's lord chief justice, Lord Phillips, ruled that the original £10 million fine levied against Balfour Beatty was disproportionate to the £3.5 million which private rail industry administrator Railtrack was forced to pay.

"We consider there is scope for a reduction in the interests of proportionality which will still do justice to the applicable [legal] principles and, in particular, to the victims of the Hatfield disaster," Lord Phillips said.

In addition to the four fatalities, more than 100 people were injured when a faulty rail caused a train travelling at 115mph to derail.

Defence lawyers arguing Balfour Beatty's case said that its penalty should be reduced because the firm had pleaded guilty to the charge of breaking health and safety regulations in place at the time.

Balfour Beatty, which had been tasked with repairing the fault, had failed to do so despite knowing about it for nine months prior to the accident. A replacement rail had been laid next to the faulty track and was still lying there, unused, when the Great North Eastern Railway InterCity 225 train derailed on October 17th 2000.

The engineering firm released positive first-half year results in a trading statement released last week, saying that the market remained upbeat and that its "order book has grown to over £8.5 billion".

But it strove to emphasise its regret for the role it played in contributing to the crash in a statement released today.

"Hatfield was a tragedy and our thoughts remain with the bereaved families and those injured and otherwise affected by it," Balfour Beatty said.

"In entering its plea [Balfour Beatty] accepted inadequacies in its patrolling and inspection activities, for which it once again apologises."


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