A quite extraordinary story broke yesterday, as Network Rail admitted that it made some safety errors that contributed to the 1999 Paddington train crash, and now faces a massive fine. Why "extraordinary"?
- Because Network Rail did not exist in 1999. That was Railtrack. Network Rail replaced it.
- As a publicly-owned (albeit arms-length, so not democratically accountable) body, Network Rail will pay its fines out of public money. But the fines are for the wrongdoings of a private company, Railtrack.
- Or maybe it will pay the fines by attacking its workforce. Or by cutting corners in its operations. Not good, either way, and no help in preventing a repeat of the fatal crash.
- Why has it taken seven bloody years to admit this?! Seven years of torment for the survivors and bereaved. Seven years waiting for some kind of justice, some kind of resolution, some kind of admission that their suffering was not an 'accident' but the result of corporate negligence.
- If I'd killed 31 people, I'd be one of the world's most notorious serial killers. The bosses responsible for these deaths are free men.
Many of the victims have rightly expressed their annoyance at the situation - and their suspicion that NR only admitted the breaches of the law because a 'guilty' plea will reduce the fine. They are further naffed off by the fact that sentencing has been postponed to 18th December for no apparent reason.
However, I was a little saddened to read that the Paddington Families Group is demanding as big a fine as possible. I think this is a mistake - both for the reasons given for the above, and because I think the more important demands are:
- A new corporate accountability law that, unlike New Labour's proposed one, actually holds corporations to account.
- The immediate reintegration and renationalisation of the railways, this time under democratic workers' and passengers' control.