The company that runs Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal in the Midlands must pay £6.5m after a court found it guilty of negligence over the death of an 11-year-old boy at the depot, near Rugby.
WH Malcolm, which was sentenced at Northampton Crown Court on Friday (30 July), failed to prevent Harrison Ballantyne from easily accessing the site in June 2017.
The 11-year-old had no problem entering the depot with his friends to retrieve a football and climb on top of a stationary freight wagon. Once atop the wagon, he received a fatal electric shock from the overhead line and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) charged the company with two offences – the first under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the second under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.
'This case serves as a reminder that should access to the railway not be properly controlled, serious events like this occur'
The ORR’s investigation found that WH Malcolm had not only failed to assess the risk of unauthorised access to the terminal, but had also failed to implement appropriate measures to prevent unauthorised access to a part of the site where there were frequent freight movements and overhead line equipment energised at 25,000 volts.
During a trial that lasted three weeks, the court was told how the rail freight terminal operator routinely positioned freight wagons under the electrified lines for prolonged periods, despite the presence of a number of unelectrified sidings.
Significantly, this meant that the high voltage cable above the freight wagons could be accessed by trespassers.
In sentencing, Judge HHJ Lucking QC condemned WH Malcolm and said: ‘In contesting this trial, the defendant failed to take responsibility for a serious and obvious failing to allow public access to what is and was a dangerous environment.’
Ian Prosser, chief inspector of railways, said: ‘The railway industry has done some excellent work in preventing trespass and educating children about the risks, but this case serves as a reminder that should access to the railway not be properly controlled, serious events like this occur.’