Exclusive: Multi-million-pound fine for DIRFT operator will have big impact on freight industry, say inspectors

'This will send messages across the sector that you need to do the basics'

Friday, 30th July 2021, 5:22 pm
Updated Friday, 30th July 2021, 5:24 pm

Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal's operator's £6.5 million fine over the Harrison Ballantyne's death will have a significant impact on the freight industry, according to inspectors.

WH Malcolm was sentenced on Friday (July 30), having been found guilty of negligence after the 11-year-old boy was fatally electrocuted at the Northamptonshire railway depot.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR), which brought the prosecution, hopes the industry will wake up to the fact that trespassing must be addressed and boundaries must be secure.

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Harrison Ballantyne died at Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal near Crick in 2017

Chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser told this newspaper: "It's very important - this will send messages across the sector that you need to do the basics here and ensure your sites are secure."

On June 27, 2017, Harrison and five friends were able to climb over a wooden fence next to a bridleway between Crick and Kilsby to access the 'head shunt' area of DIRFT to get their football back.

The Guilsborough Academy pupil climbed onto the wagon where he came into contact with overhead wires carrying 25,000 volts and suffered serious electrical burns.

One of the other boys was following Harrison, who was pronounced dead at the scene but was unable to be identified by his parents, onto the wagon before he was electrocuted.

The court heard how WH Malcolm had been repeatedly warned about the trespassing issues in that area in the years before Harrison's death and had not installed proper fencing.

The firm also routinely placed freight wagons under the otherwise inaccessible electrified lines for prolonged periods of time despite the presence of several unelectrified sidings.

Mr Prosser said: "What's a young person going to do when they have lost their football and when it's so easy to get it back? They are going to get it.

"I think this case is an important case as this organisation we have prosecuted isn't the freight operator but has a base that's next to the mainline railway and has very hazardous environment.

"So it's not just the train operating company but National Rail that needs to take this very seriously."

Mr Prosser said trespassing as a whole has been an area across the whole sector that the ORR has been focused on over the last 10 or so years but only recently have firms started to get the message.

"There's been a few cases around the freight companies where unauthorised access has been easy for young boys to get in and girls actually as well and a lot of improvements have been made," he said.

"But it's very important, this is not complicated stuff, this is relatively straight forward to deal with.

"The industry has been focused on trespass in the past as it affects performance so there's a good business reason as well as an important health and safety reason.

"It's something that has got the freight companies in particular in recent years to focus more on preventing trespass because it's not complicated.

"Not doing a risk assessment when you know there has been issues at the site is unacceptable."