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Cumbria train crash highlights importance of rail safety

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Network Rail has been mentioned in the press after indicating it would plead guilty to breaches of health and safety over the Grayrigg rail crash in Cumbria in 2007. A woman died and more than 80 people were injured.

The Virgin train derailed on the west coast main line. An inquest held in November 2011 found that poorly maintained points were to blame. Network Rail admitted the breach and apologised to the family of Mrs Masson who died in the tragic accident, through a statement to the press.

Mrs Masson’s son, George, told the press that he was relieved that Network Rail had admitted they were at fault but was sad that they couldn’t apologise face to face. The case will now be heard at Preston Crown Court, where Network Rail will face a fine.

A spokesperson for the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said: "The Office of Rail Regulation's prosecution of Network Rail for breaches of health and safety law which caused a train to derail near Grayrigg in February 2007, killing one person and injuring 86 people, had its first hearing today at Lancaster Magistrates’ Court.

"Network Rail pleaded guilty to one charge under section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The court has committed Network Rail to Preston Crown Court where a sentencing hearing will take place on 2 April 2012.

"Our thoughts are with the family of Mrs Margaret Masson and all those involved in this incident. ORR will do everything it can to ensure that the prosecution proceeds as quickly as possible."

This isn’t the first time this year, we have heard about an admission of liability from Network Rail. My colleague, Pauline Smith, reported in February 2012 on the admission of liability on the part of Network Rail following the deaths of two teenage girls as they walked over a level crossing.

Thankfully train accidents are very rare. However, these cases certainly highlight that Network Rail has a huge responsibility for ensuring that we are all safe on our rail network. Get it wrong and there are tragic consequences.

By personal injury solicitor, Jennifer Holt