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SOUTHALL: Great Western Trains Trial

Court told that GWT's failure not major cause of accident

railtec : Monday, July 26, 1999


Great Western TrainsA court was told today that Great Western Trains' failure to correct a fault in an automatic warning system was not the major cause of an accident in which 7 people died and 150 were injured.
The train which collided at high speed with an empty frieght train at Southall on 19 September 1999 was being operated with two crucial safety systems inoperative. The faults had been reported before its departure, but no action had been taken although the equipment in the rear power car was working.

The rail company is facing an unlimited fine having pleaded guilty to a Health and Safety charge at the Old Bailey arising from the accident. Defending, Jonathan Caplan, QC told the judge, Mr Justice Scott-Baker that GWT apologised for the tragedy and "the remorse and responsibility are unqualified".

Mr Justice Scott-Baker explained that before imposing a fine, he had to establish the degree to which GWT was in breach of its duty. He said

"A plain fact in this case is that nobody had taken on board the danger of allowing this train to run from Southall to Paddington with the AWS isolated and without other support for the driver," he said.
Mr Caplan told the judge that a finger should not be pointed at the railway company saying "if you do that, you will not be assessing the proper level of fault in this case". He stated that the company accepted it was wrong not to have provided a system for reversing the train in order to allow it to proceed with functional equipment at the head of the train.

Counsel for the prosecution criticised GWT for having a "blatant disregard for for certain fundamental measures" stating that the company had introduced new rules within a few days of the accident.

Earlier story
SOUTHALL: Great Western Trains Trial

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