Socialist Worker

£110m reward for Hatfield rail disaster firm

by Kelly Hilditch
Issue No. 1972

Engineering firm Balfour Beatty received a £10 million fine for its part in the Hatfield rail disaster on Thursday of last week.

But on the very same day, the company announced it had snapped up a contract worth £110 million to upgrade the West Coast Main Line from Network Rail — which was also fined £3.5 million for its part in the Hatfield crash.

Balfour Beatty had been awarded the contract some time before, but callously chose to announce the deal on the day the families of those killed and injured at Hatfield had hoped to get justice.

Four people were killed and 102 injured when a King’s Cross to Leeds train came off the tracks at 115mph in October 2000 after a rail shattered.

The faulty rail had been identified 21 months before the crash. A replacement had been delivered to the site six months before, but it wasn’t fitted.

Despite the obvious negligence, corporate manslaughter charges against Balfour Beatty and five of its executives were thrown out of court in July.

In his judgement at the Old Bailey trial Mr Justice Mackay described the case as “one of the worst examples of sustained industrial negligence”.

He added, “One of the indefensible features of the 1996 privatisation — the separation of the ownership and control of the track from its maintenance — is now gone. Perhaps that is one good thing resulting from this disastrous affair.”

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail union, denounced the fine as “paltry”, adding that “every penny” paid by the two firms had “originated in taxpayers’ and farepayers’ pockets”.

He said, “Balfour Beatty will simply be paying back a fraction of the millions they have made at the public’s expense.

“Justice will not be done until Britain has a corporate manslaughter law that holds individual executives to account for negligence that kills innocent people.”

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Sat 15 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1972
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