After being convicted of one offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd (GTR) has now been fined £1 million, with £52,267 costs.
The sentence was passed by His Honour Judge Jeffrey Pegden sitting at Southwark Crown Court following GTR entering a guilty plea at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 8 May 2019.
Jonathan Ashley-Norman QC, prosecuting for the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) told the court that 24-year-old Simon Brown died on 7 August 2016 after a trackside gantry struck his head when the Brighton to London Victoria train was travelling at approximately 60mph close to Balham Station in South London.
The investigation carried out by the ORR, found that for reasons unknown, Mr Brown’s head had passed through a droplight window of the door on the Class 442 train and then struck a trackside gantry within 230mm of the window as the train passed it.
The window was in a carriage door in the corridor opposite the Guard’s compartment and which was fully accessible to the public.
A metal bar ran along the top of the window pane bearing the instruction ‘press and pull down to open’.
This is what allows the window to be lowered to a point about two-thirds of the way down the frame to enable passengers to reach the external door handle and open the door when the train was in a station.
Following the tragedy, GTR immediately took steps by placing bars across the windows in such a way that it was still possible to lower the window, and therefore open the door when necessary, but it was also not still possible for passengers’ heads to be outside the carriage.
The ORR’s investigation revealed that there was a similar incident back in 2002. This incident resulted in an enforcement action being taken against the train operator South Central Limited.
The ORR told the court that the risks associated with droplight windows should have been identified by a suitable risk assessment, and there should have been control measures introduced accordingly. However, GTR failed to take the appropriate action.
What did the officials say?
Ian Prosser, ORR Director of Safety and HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said:
“Our thoughts remain with Simon Brown’s family and friends at this particularly difficult time. It is to GTR’s credit that they pleaded guilty to the offence and spared the family the pain of a protracted court case.
“We are also pleased that the court recognised the severity of the offence and reflected that in the sentence passed.
“There are still some trains with droplight windows operating on the network and we have written to operators instructing them to take immediate action to prevent a similar tragedy happening again.”