Network Rail and a signalman whose failures led to the death of a woman when a Manchester Piccadilly train ploughed into her car were yesterday hit with a huge fine.
Jane Harding’s car was hit by the 8.30 Manchester Piccadilly to Milford Haven service on a level crossing near Hertfordshire on January 16 2010.
Network Rail denied failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees, while signalman Adrian Maund, 43, denied failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of railway crossing users.
However, both were found guilty in a trial which lasted three weeks at Birmingham Crown Court.
Yesterday Network Rail were fined £450,000 and ordered to pay £33,000 towards prosecution costs – significantly more favourable than the £1million fine they could have received.
Maund was fined £1750 and ordered to carry out 275 hours of unpaid work following his role in the death of the 52-year-old.
He must also pay £750 towards prosecution costs.
The jury were told that Maund was distracted when a farmer twice rang to ask if it was safe for him to walk his sheep across another crossing further up the track.
Detective Constable Paul Doorbar, from the British Transport Police’s Major Investigation Team, said: “The past three years have been extremely difficult and traumatic for Mark Harding and his family, following the tragic death of his wife, Jane, in January 2010.
“Mark has shown a tremendous amount of courage and dignity throughout the last three years and our thoughts remain with him and his family now, as they have done throughout the past three years.”
Mrs Harding’s husband, Mark, 54, was driving their Volkswagen Toureg car when it was struck by the Manchester train at Moreton-on-Lugg level crossing.
He suffered serious injuries.
This was because signalman Maund raised the crossing barriers too early as he mistakenly thought the train had already passed.
During the trial, jurors at Birmingham Crown Court were told that Network Rail had opted not to spend money on an automatic locking device that would have prevented a signalman from being able to manually raise the crossing barriers if a train was approaching.
When the barriers were raised and the Hardings’ car began to cross, they were hit by the train travelling at about 55mph.
Kevin Groves of Network Rail told Sky News: “Somebody made a simple human error on this occasion that caused tragic consequences.”
Mrs Harding died later from her injuries.
DC Doorbar added: “Jane Harding died in tragic circumstances and it is right and proper that the details surrounding her death were examined by a court and jury.”