During sentencing at Newcastle Crown Court this week, the court was
told the railway freight operator had failed to secure the land known as Tyne
Yard despite repeated warnings of the risks posed to trespassers.
DB Cargo was found guilty in October 2018 under s 3(1) of the
Health and Safety at Work Act as a result of prosecution by the UK rail
regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). The company, which had denied the
offence, was ordered to pay £188,874 costs.
On 14 June 2014, two girls aged 13 and two boys of 11 and 13,
entered Tyne Yard to visit a disused signal box known locally as the “haunted
house”. The boys tried to climb on to the roof of a stationary wagon, one of 22
that made up the train that was due to leave that day.
The 13-year-old boy, who reached the roof, went too close to a 25,000-volt
overhead line causing an electrical arc that threw him from the carriage and
resulted in him losing part of both legs and seven fingers. The other boy sustained
The ORR investigation found there were four entry points to the
yard over road bridges, of which two where not properly fenced off. One had a
gate that did not close properly while another had a vehicle gate that failed
to stop pedestrians.
Investigators found no credible obstacles were in place to stop
people entering the yard, no adequate security patrol was present and there was
no signage deterring trespassers.
The court was told that DB Cargo had been aware of the risk to
trespassers as early as 2011 and that the presence of graffiti indicated people
were gaining entry. Warning signs DB Cargo had fixed to the signal box were
either indistinct or had been torn down. A common theme in the evidence given
by the children was the lack of signage.
A site report in January 2013 recommended the signal box “needs
to be demolished asap” due to the risk it posed. Another report two months
later contained the comment “need to get some wire fencing around the building
asap”. A risk assessment that April resulted in a 72/72 risk rating, the
A security patrol set up by the defendant focused on securing the
signal box rather than the property boundary and operated between 8pm and 8am
despite evidence that entry was being made at other times.
Ian Prosser, the chief inspector of railways, said after the
trial: “We welcome the sentence, which clearly indicates the seriousness with
which this offence is viewed and we expect DB Cargo and the rail industry as a
whole to look very hard at their sites and make sure they are doing everything
possible to ensure they are secure.”
At the conclusion of the trial, DB Cargo was fined £33,500 after
pleading guilty to refusing to provide documentation despite a request by ORR