Swindon Crown Court has postponed the prosecution of West Coast Railways and one of its drivers for a safety breach until May.
West Coast Railways is facing charges of breaching Health and Safety laws after driver Melvyn Cox bypassed safety equipment near Wootton Bassett junction on 7 March 2015, bringing ‘Battle of Britain’ No. 34067 Tangmere to a stop across a busy main line junction.
The decision put 750 lives at risk, prosecuting counsel alleged during preliminary hearings at Swindon Magistrates Court in January.
The Office of Road and Rail’s investigation of the incident on March 7 alleges Mr Cox directed a colleague to turn off the safety system that is designed to apply an emergency brake if the driver makes an error.
Swindon Crown Court had been due to hear pleas on March 18, but the ORR said the hearing had been adjourned to a date in May at the request of one of the defendants. The date has yet to be fixed.
West Coast Railways remains banned from running heritage rail services on the mainline, after the ORR issued a Prohibition Notice on February 16, citing concerns that the operator “continues to present a safety risk” despite repeated warnings over safety management and governance.
The ORR launched a review of WCRC’s safety certification in December 2015, following a series of dangerous incidents throughout 2015.
The operator’s services were suspended in the wake of the Wootton Bassett incident, and again in November when the regulator found that staff on board No. 45231 had again turned off its Train Protection and Warning System isolation equipment.
The ORR issued a temporary suspension notice on certain locomotives, and launched a review of all WCR steam operations.
Under the terms of the Prohibition Notice, the company will not be able to operate trains on the mainline network until the ORR is satisfied its governance and operations meet industry practice and are fit for the scale of its operation.
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