- Hatfield rail crash
infobox UK rail accident
title= Hatfield rail crash
17 October 2000, 12:23 GMT
East Coast Main Line
cause= Rail failure
injuries= 70The Hatfield rail crash was a
railwayaccident on 17 October 2000, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK. Although the accident killed fewer than others, Hatfield exposed the major stewardship shortcomings of the national railway infrastructure company Railtrackand the failings of the regulatory oversight which the company had had in its initial years - principally a failure to ensure that the company had a sound knowledge of the condition of its assets - and ultimately triggered its partial renationalisation.
Great North Eastern Railway InterCity 225train bound for Leedshad left London King's Crossat 1210 local time. It was travelling at over 115mph when it derailed south of Hatfield station at 1223. Four were killed and a further 70 injured. Those killed were in the restaurantcoach which struck a catenary stanchionfollowing derailment. The dead were:
*Robert James Alcorn, 37, of
Auckland, New Zealand
*Steve Arthur, 46, from
Pease Pottage, West Sussex
*Leslie Gray, 43, of Tuxford,
*Peter Monkhouse, 50, of
Crash investigators identified the integrity and strength of the
British Raildesigned Mark 4 coaches for protecting occupants. Coincidentally, the locomotive in the crash was also in the Great Heck crash a few months later.
Cause of accident
A preliminary investigation found a rail had fragmented as trains passed and that the likely cause was "gauge corner cracking" (microscopic cracks in the rails). Such cracks are caused by high loads where the wheels contact the rail. Repeated loading causes fatigue cracks to grow. When they reach a critical size, the rail fails. Over 300 critical cracks were found in rails at Hatfield. The problem was known about before the accident, and replacement rails made available but never installed. The implication that other rails might be affected led to speed restrictions on huge lengths of railway, crippling many routes, while checks were carried out on rails. The incidence of cracks similar to those that at Hatfield was alarmingly high throughout the country.Fact|date=January 2008
The rail infrastructure company
Railtrack, having divested much of the engineering knowledge of British Rail into maintenance contractors, had inadequate maintenance records and no accessible asset register. It did not know how much other f gauge corner cracking around the network could lead to a Hatfield-like accident. Railtrack imposed over 1200 emergency speed restrictions and instigated a nationwide and costly) track replacement programme, and was subject to enforcement by the Rail Regulator Tom Winsor. The disruption to the network and the company's spiralling costs set in motion the events which resulted in the collapse of the company into administration at the insistence of transport secretary Stephen Byers MP, and its replacement by the not-for-dividend company Network Railunder Byers' successor Alistair Darling MP.
In 2003, six people and two companies – Network Rail (as successors of Railtrack) and the division of
Balfour Beattythat maintained the track – were charged with manslaughter in connection with the accident (see corporate manslaughter). Charges against Network Rail/Railtrack and some of its executives were dropped in September 2004, but the other charges stood. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3618628.stm|title=Charges dropped against Railtrack|publisher= BBC News|date=2004-09-02] The trial began in January 2005; the judge, Mr Justice Mackay, warned that it could go on for a year. On 14 Julythe judge instructed the jury to acquit all defendants on charges of manslaughter. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4681891.stm|title=Rail killing charges thrown out|publisher= BBC News|date=2005-07-14] A few days later Balfour Beatty changed its plea to guilty [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4692813.stm|title=Company admits Hatfield breaches|publisher= BBC News|date=2005-07-18] on the health and safety charges, and on 6 SeptemberNetwork Rail was found guilty of breaching health and safety law. [cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4219352.stm|title=Network Rail guilty over Hatfield|publisher= BBC News|date=2005-11-06] All of the executives who had been charged were acquitted.
The court considered the extent to which the poor condition of the rail was known and any acts or failures to act that resulted.
*Anthony Walker (Balfour Beatty's rail maintenance director) and Nicholas Jeffries (its civil engineer), denied manslaughter.
*Railtrack's Alistair Cook and Sean Fugill (asset managers for the London North-East zone), and track engineer Keith Lee, denied manslaughter.
*All five men, with four others, are also accused of breaches of health and safety laws.
*Balfour Beatty denied manslaughter because it was alleged that Nicholas Jeffries was sufficiently senior that his acts were the omissions of the company
*Network Rail denied charges under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act
List of rail accidents in the United Kingdom
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/in_depth/uk/2000/hatfield_crash/ BBC News In Depth - Hatfield crash]
* [http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.8190 Health & Safety Executive page on the Hatfield crash]
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