The UK's biggest freight operator has been prosecuted after a worker suffered life-changing injuries when a train collided with his vehicle on a level crossing.
Terry Currie, then aged 43 and working for DB Cargo as a shunter, had to have his right arm amputated following the incident on 4 September 2018 at Dollands Moor freight yard in Folkestone, Kent.
An investigation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) found the firm had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks associated with the movement of people and trains within the yard. As a result, a safe system of work was not implemented to protect workers as they moved around the yard, which is 3km from the entrance to the Channel Tunnel and is primarily used by rail freight services travelling to and from mainland Europe.
District Judge Barron said there was an obvious risk of a collision between people and trains within the yard, which had been foreseen as long ago as 1991 when the yard was designed, before it became operational in 1994. At that time, between 8 and 11 track workers or shunters were killed on the railway each year.
Until 2010, safety documentation included a requirement that buggies crossing the sidings should use one of the two subways that were provided at each end of the yard to allow staff access to individual sidings without crossing any tracks.
‘Following the accident, DB Cargo has taken action to mitigate risks but had it properly assessed the risk of a collision beforehand, Mr Currie need not have suffered life changing injury’
By 2012, this requirement was no longer included. By 2014, only one of the two subways remained open, but lighting in this subway had failed. Use of this subway was not enforced, so most workers chose to drive across the level crossings instead. There were no barriers, signs or written instructions indicating that vehicles were not allowed to use the level crossings unless signals were being used to stop any approaching trains.
Yesterday at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court, Doncaster-based DB Cargo (UK), formerly DB Schenker Rail UK and English, Welsh & Scottish Railway, was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £33,768 in prosecution costs.
‘These were serious failings by DB Cargo to protect its workers and ensure a safe practice of freight train movements,’ said Ian Prosser CBE, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, ORR.
‘There were clear and obvious risks of serious injury due to the lack of appropriate ways of working. [This] sentence shows how important it is that operators have appropriate practices to ensure worker safety.
‘Following the accident, DB Cargo has taken action to mitigate risks but had it properly assessed the risk of a collision beforehand, Mr Currie need not have suffered life changing injury.’
DB Cargo is no stranger to the courts. Last year, the freight firm was hit with a £1.2 million fine after a 13-year-old boy was electrocuted.
And in 2019 it was made to pay £2.7 million for failing to secure a marshalling yard.