Network Rail owns up to pedestrian crossing deaths.

In the High Court a Nottingham man has secured damages from  Network Rail following the tragic death of his wife and grandson at a pedestrian-only railway crossing.

Widower Laurence Hoggart issued court proceedings against Network Rail after his wife, Jean Hoggart, 56 and her autistic grandson Michael Dawson, seven, died when they were hit by a train on the pedestrians-only crossing in Bestwood, Nottingham in November 2008.  Jane Radcliffe of Personal Injury solicitors Pattinson and Brewer – who is acting for Mr.Hoggart – said:”The tragedy of this accident is that the dangers of the crossing were identified by Railtrack in 2000 and by Network Rail in 2004 and yet no remedial action was taken.” Mr. Hoggart issued High Court proceedings against Network Rail after they had failed to respond to the letter of claim submitted on his behalf.

Pattinson and Brewer discovered that Railtrack, the rail firm responsible at the time of the accident, actually objected to the building of a nearby housing development in 2000 because the local crossing was considered unsafe. It said the developers should make improvements to the crossing or build a footbridge or subway. The Developer replied that it was Railtrack’s responsibility and nothing further was done. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch, when publishing its investigation report, revealed that a level crossing risk assessment carried out in 2004 recommended that action be taken to straighten the crossing. This recommendation was not followed up.

At an inquest in June 2010 the coroner decided that either Mrs Hoggart did not hear the train at all, or heard a noise but assumed it was coming from a tram which passed some seconds ahead of the train. The crossing, which links Bestwood village to Hucknall Lane, has been described by local councillor Chris Baron  as “an accident waiting to happen. It was poorly lit, was not straight and Pedestrians had to cross three rail lines, one of which was disused. It also ran alongside a tramline, making it hard for people to see or hear whether a train or tram was coming”.  A whistle board warning train drivers to sound their horn on approach was moved further away from the crossing after residents objected to the noise. Network Rail has since straightened the crossing after the death of Mrs Hoggart and her grandson, who lived in Hucknall.

In a statement Mr.Hoggart said that he was  disappointed that it had taken such a long time for Network Rail to settle his claim. “I am relieved that at last Network Rail have agreed to settle the case I brought against them after my wife Jean and grandson Michael, died in a tragic accident.  My personal loss and that to our family could so easily have been avoided if the responsible people in Railtrack and Network Rail had done their jobs properly.  They did not, and we have to suffer the dreadful consequences for the rest of our lives.  I am still angry about the manner in which the rail authorities dragged their feet in even responding to their deaths.  I feel that I have had to fight them every step of the way and it’s my belief that the only reason that they have settled the claim this week is the adverse publicity they have faced over the Elsenham tragedy. I think the offer they have given is appalling for the life of an innocent human being.  They have left this right up until the last minute; two weeks before it was due to be heard in court and I think they have done this for greed and profit. I do wonder what sort of people are running this supposedly public service. Are they decent, honest and caring? Their actions to date suggest otherwise. They get huge bonuses and haven’t cared about the misery that I and my family have been through.”

M.P.’s on Thursday called on Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, to exercise her right to  block Network Rail bonuses being awarded at a time when it is in breach of its licence obligations and failing to meet its punctuality targets. The anti-business mood has been fuelled by reports that Network Rail’s chief executive, Sir David Higgins, whose basic salary is £560,000, could be shortly awarded up to £336,000 on top in an annual bonus, plus a total of £2.8m over a five-year period. Similar bonuses are due be handed to board members in a re-organisation of the incentive structure.


Pattinson & Brewer media relations: Denise Kitchener

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If Denise is unavailable: Chris Theobald

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Editors Notes:

Pattinson & Brewer, “the claimant’s champion”, is a leading UK law firm with offices in London, Bristol and York. Since its foundation in 1891 the firm has established a proud reputation for winning compensation for ordinary working people and now acts on behalf of the public and union members in employment disputes, personal injury, accident and occupational disease actions. It also has a remarkable record in successfully handling complex medical negligence and catastrophic injury cases. All its partners are passionately committed to accessing justice and fairness for their individual clients.
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Accidents and Disease, Jane Radcliffe, Marcus Weatherby, Medical Negligence, News Releases,
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