Posted 21st April 2021 | 2 Comments

Network Rail fined after substation fire injured worker

A PROSECUTION by the Office of Rail and Road has resulted in Network Rail paying a penalty of more than £700,000 after an employee was seriously burnt in a substation fire in Kent.

The ORR said Network Rail had failed ‘over a significant period of time’ to prevent water leaking into the substation building at Godinton, near Ashford, and to maintain the dehumidifiers which had been installed inside.

The employee received third degree and mixed depth burns in the fire, on 20 December 2018. ORR inspectors found that failures had caused an electrical arc while Network Rail’s employees were working on a circuit breaker. The conditions inside the substation on the day of the incident were described as like a sauna’.

The sentence of a fine of £696,666 plus £33,647.45 in costs was imposed at Folkestone magistrates’ court on 14 April, where District Judge Barron said the system of work was ‘not sufficiently robust’, while training for Network Rail’s technicians at the time did not adequately identify the dangers of working near live equipment in damp conditions, which meant that employees were at risk.

The ORR’s chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser added: ‘This case highlights the importance of acting to reduce or eliminate known risks at an early stage.

Network Rail knew of the water leak at Godinton for nine months and despite concerns raised by staff and contractors, the required work was repeatedly delayed. This was a known risk and the failure to deal with it effectively led to staff working in unsafe conditions.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    It seems there needs to be some personal responsibility and punishment/fines levied on those responsible for the decision to repeatedly defer the work required at Godinton, whether that be fines, forced time off work without pay, loss of employment, etc.

  • Matthew Ellis, Woking

    While it is clear that some form of action is required when Network Rail action/inaction causes avoidable incidents, but as a public body it seems to me that issuing a fine is pointless - money comes out of public purse and returns to public purse. Lawyers likely profit but otherwise where is the incentive to do better?

    Bonuses for senior staff in the finance industry can now be clawed back years later, so why not Network Rail (and possibly others)?