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Conviction after children injured at rail depot

08 October 2018

DB CARGO (UK) Ltd has been convicted after a four-week trial of one offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act, following a prosecution by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

Newcastle Crown Court heard that a 13-year-old boy suffered life-changing injuries after receiving an electric shock from 25,000-volt overhead line equipment at Tyne Yard in Gateshead.

The ORR told the court that trespassers at the yard visited a disused signal box - known to local children as the ‘haunted house’. DB Cargo (UK) Ltd operates this major regional freight yard in the region.

The ORR alleged that the defendant failed to ensure that non-employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety through its activities.

The ORR’s investigation followed an incident on 14 June 2014 when two boys, aged 11 and 13, and two 13-year-old girls entered Tyne Yard. After spending a short time in the ‘haunted house’, they walked onto another part of the site, where the two boys climbed onto the roof of a stationary wagon, which formed one part of a 22-wagon train that was due to leave the depot later that evening. While on top of the wagon, both of the boys made contact with the live current. This resulted in one boy sustaining serious injuries; the other boy suffered minor burns.

The court heard that DB Cargo (UK) Ltd was fully aware that the site attracted trespassers, shown by the presence of graffiti on buildings, fly tipping and vandalism, and reports of drinking and drug taking there. One of the four children told investigators that for a period ‘she used to go every day’.

The investigation also showed that there was not a single fence or gate stopping people leaving a public bridleway – which passed the childrens' homes in Birtley – and walking onto the yard. Furthermore, there was no security patrol and no warning signs to deter trespassers at their point of entry.

DB Cargo (UK) Ltd had noted in January 2013 that the signal box needed to be demolished because of the risks it presented. A further inspection in April of that year awarded the signal box the highest possible risk rating and in May quotes had been obtained for demolition. A further risk assessment in March 2014 confirmed the highest possible level of risk. Despite this, the signal box wasn’t demolished until October 2014 – four months after the incident.

HM chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser said, "Our thoughts at this time are with the victim who suffered such terrible injuries, the other children injured, and also their families and friends who will have all been deeply affected by this traumatic event and who continue to live with the consequences of it.

"We are absolutely committed to protecting the health and safety of passengers, staff and anyone who comes into contact with the railway network and, as this prosecution shows, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action when necessary.

"We welcome the jury’s verdict and expect to see DB Cargo (UK) Ltd and others make proper risk assessments of their sites and ensure that necessary safety measures are taken.”