A MAINTENANCE worker signed documents to say he had inspected railway points near Grayrigg when he hadn’t, an inquest has heard.
Geoffrey Ruddick, a Network Rail track chargeman, told the hearing into the death of 84-year-old Margaret Masson that he completed forms stating he had conducted safety tests on four railway points on the West Coast Main Line on December 17, 2006.
In fact, he was 50 miles away working in Gretna.
He told the jury sitting at Kendal County Hall that he ticked paperwork to say checks had been done before submitting the documents on December 18.
Mr Ruddick said he was under ‘constant pressure’ from supervisors to meet deadlines and sent off the paperwork because he was due to take a break from work and did not know when the checks would be done.
“You’re answering to different supervisors at times,” he told the inquest.
“You’re put under pressure to keep to different timescales.”
Nicholas Hilliard QC, barrister for the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), said the tests that were not carried out were ‘absolutely vital’ and designed to prevent trains from derailing.
“It was a test concerned with reducing the risk of a derailment?” asked Mr Hilliard, to which Mr Ruddick replied: “Yes, that’s true.”
Mr Ruddick added: “I said I had carried out tests at Lambrigg (near Grayrigg) when I hadn’t.”
Two months later, on February 23, 2007, Mrs Masson was killed after a Virgin Pendolino passed over faulty points at 95mph north of Kendal.
However, track engineers told the inquest that subsequent checks which did take place - on January 9 and January 31 - showed the points were in ‘perfect working order’.
Mr Hilliard said: “It could have been quite unsafe.
“You were signing the form to say it was fine?”
Mr Ruddick replied: “That’s correct.”
He added that he knew it was ‘wrong’ and told the jury that it was the first time he had ever completed paperwork in such a way.
Meanwhile, another Network Rail employee told how he raised concerns with his bosses over doing important safety checks in the dark.
The inquest learnt that technician Stephen Percival said to his superiors: “I have raised queries on numerous occasions doing this work on nightshift because it’s easier to do in daylight and I would prefer to carry out safety-critical checks in normal daylight than artificial light.”
But he was told condition checks could only take place at night when train traffic was quiet.
The inquest into the events leading up to the death of Mrs Masson continues next week when senior Network Rail managers are expected to give evidence.