Network Rail fined ?6.7million after three were killed in train crash
BREAKING: Network Rail fined £6.7million after three were killed in horror train crash in Aberdeenshire
- The driver and conductor were among the dead in the crash which saw others injured
- Rail chiefs tell how ‘deeply sorry’ they are for the tragedy
Lawyers for the firm said the three men died in ‘the most appalling and tragic circumstances’ and that the fatal crash had ‘shook’ it to its core.
Train driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62, died when the Aberdeen to Glasgow train hit a landslide near Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, in August 2020.
Network Rail admitted health and safety failings over the derailment which happened on a day of ‘biblical’ weather and torrential rainfall.
Passing sentence at the High Court in Aberdeen today, Judge Lord Matthews said: ‘Very few people in the north east of Scotland will ever forget the images of the carriages.
‘But as distressing as these images are, they were only of machines. Their loss pales into insignificance compared to that of those who tragically lost loved ones in the calamity and those who were passengers on the train.
Conductor Donald Dinnie died in the Stonehaven derailment along with the driver and a passenger
Train driver Brett McCullough, pictured with Brian May from Queen, was killed when the Scotrail train he was driving derailed
62-year-old Christopher Stuchbury from Aberdeen, victim of the tragic Stonehaven train crash
‘All of them have to live with the memories and the effects of this tragedy.’
The judge said opportunities to take appropriate action may have been missed and that the level of culpability was high, with a large number of people exposed to risk over the years.
He added: ‘No penalty I can impose will come close to compensating those whose lives have been touched by this tragedy.
‘The only disposal I have is a fine.’
After the sentencing, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service announced it would now launch a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the deaths, which would put ‘all relevant information into the public domain and help avoid such an incident happening again in the future’.
The fine handed out to Network Rail was reduced from £10 million, Lord Matthews said, because of its early guilty plea and because it was a publicly-funded body.
The operator’s lawyer Peter Gray KC told the court: ‘On behalf of Network Rail, I offer the deepest and most profound sympathies to the families. And to the injured, the deepest and heartfelt regret.’
He said the tragedy had ‘shook Network Rail to its core’.
He added: ‘Its acceptance of its shortcomings was both immediate and genuine.
‘Its co-operation with all investigations was absolute. And its response to ensure so far as reasonably possible that such tragedy should not be repeated was comprehensive and continues.’
He added that the guilty plea had avoided any need for a potentially distressing, lengthy and complex trial.
Speaking outside court, Ray McCullough, the father of the train’s driver, said the fine was ‘not enough’.
The Stonehaven rail crash was caused by errors in the construction of a drainage system
Three people were killed when a ScotRail train derailed after hitting gravel and other stony material washed out from the drain
He added: ‘At the end of the day, the train should not have gone out.’
The train derailed at 9.37am after it struck a landslide, hitting gravel and other stony material washed out from a drain by heavy rain.
It hit the side of a bridge, causing its power car and one of its four carriages to fall down an embankment.
A 32-yer-old survivor of the disaster revealed she was thrown unconscious from her carriage after feeling it ‘aquaplane’ as it left the tracks. She was among the six injured in the derailment.
She said: ‘I don’t know why I survived. But I feel lucky every day that I did.’
And Trish Ewen, 59, Mr Dinnie’s partner, added: ‘Donald and I should be thinking about retiring together and planning the rest of our lives - instead he was taken and I’ve been left to exist alone.’
Detective Chief Inspector Marc Francey, of the British Transport Police, said the thoughts were with the loved ones of the three that lost their lives.
He said: ‘They should have come home to their families that tragic day in August, but they so sadly lost their lives in the most horrendous of circumstances on the railway in Stonehaven.
‘While today’s outcome could never begin to make up for that loss, I hope their families are now able to begin to find some closure following the conclusion of the proceedings today.’
Network Rail admitted a charge covering the period from May 1, 2011, to August 12, 2020.
Advocate depute Alex Prentice KC, prosecuting, told the court on Thursday that it had failed to maintain or inspect a drainage asset built in 2011 prior to the derailment.
He said if the drain had been constructed to the agreed specifications, it would have been able to cope with the amount of washout of gravel which resulted in the train derailing.
The court also heard Mr McCullough had asked the Carmont area signaller if there were any speed restrictions in place due to the conditions.
The signaller told him: ‘Eh no, everything’s fine between myself and Stonehaven.’
The court heard that when Mr McCullough pulled the emergency brake, there was ‘insufficient time’ for it to have any impact on the train’s speed.
It admitted it failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practical, that railway workers not in its employment and members of the public travelling by train were not exposed to the ‘risk of serious injury and death from train derailment’ as a result of failures in the construction, inspection and maintenance of drainage assets and in adverse and extreme weather planning.
A Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report published last March found errors in the construction of a drainage system installed by Carillion meant it was unable to cope with heavy rain which fell in the area on the morning of the crash.
Carillion went into compulsory liquidation in January 2018.
The RAIB report made 20 recommendations to improve railway safety, many of which were directed at Network Rail.
Network Rail said it is determined to build upon the ‘significant changes’ it has made since the incident, which have ‘helped us to manage the risk of severe weather to the network’, and it has invested millions to improve the resilience of the railway.
But Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, warned there was still work to do to improve safety on the network.
He said: ‘Network Rail has made progress in implementing the safety recommendations that came from reviews of the failings that contributed to the accident. However, as highlighted in our 2023 annual ORR [Office of Rail and Road] health and safety report, there remains much work to do as we all contend with the effects of climate change on our network.
‘We must never forget what happened three years ago and we require the industry to be unrelenting in its work to maintain Britain’s railways as one of the safest in Europe.’
- ^ Dan Barker (www.dailymail.co.uk)
- ^ NETWORK Rail (www.dailymail.co.uk)
- ^ Glasgow (www.dailymail.co.uk)
- ^ Miracle in Carriage D: Survivor tells how she was thrown through train window in Stonehaven rail disaste (www.dailymail.co.uk)
- ^ Network Rail admit health and safety breaches after three people died when a train derailed (www.dailymail.co.uk)