Bedford Borough Council fined £300k following bus station death in 2015

Bedford bus station under construction 2015
Bedford bus station under construction, March 2015.

A bus company and a council were fined a total of £650,000 today (Friday) after a woman was killed when she was hit by a lorry during the redevelopment of Bedford Bus Station.

Nicola Berridge, 53, from Potton Road, Biggleswade ‘suffered catastrophic and immediately fatal injuries’ when she was struck by a DAF lorry delivering sand at just before 8am on February 13 2015.

The death led to the prosecution of Cambus Limited, which trades as Stagecoach, and DJT Surfacing Limited, a road surfacing contractor.

In July this year Cambus Ltd was found guilty by a jury at St Albans crown court of failing to discharge a duty to non-employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act between 25 February 2013 and 14 February 2015. The jury acquitted DJT of an identical charge.

Bedford Borough Council pleaded guilty in July 2018 to breaching its duty under the Health and Safety at work act.

Mr Justice Turner fined Bedford Borough Council £300,000 and Cambus £350,000.

He said, “I express my personal condolences to Mrs Berridge’s family, in particular her mother and brother. It must be recognised that no penalty imposed by the court should be taken as a valuation of her life.”

Prosecutor Valerie Charbit said the redevelopment of the bus station began in late January 2014 and carried on until 2015. It involved the demolition of the old building and the construction of a new one with a concourse and covered outdoor public area.

The court heard the site was frequently congested with buses and there was also a problem with contractors’ vehicles being parked within the working part of the bus station.

On 13 February 2015, Shkelqim Llaveshi drove a DAF four axle eight-wheel HGV for DJT. He arrived at Bedford Bus Station at around 7.56am.

He could not see anyone when he drove to the bus station and stopped, partially straddling a pedestrian crossing.

Ms Charbit said:,”Not long before Mr Llaveshi and the lorry he was driving arrived at Bedford Bus Station, a lady called Nicola Berridge had got off a bus at the bus station. Another bus was parked just in front of that bus.

“Ms Berridge then walked onto the pedestrian crossing, which was partially blocked by the lorry. When walking onto the crossing she passed through a gap between two parked buses.

“She then made her way across the pedestrian crossing and then moved off the crossing to step out in front of the parked lorry so she could continue to cross the bus station.

“Just before she walked in front of the lorry, the bus which she had got off began to pull out.

“Around the same time Mr Llaveshi in the lorry, checked his mirrors and, in moving forward slowly, he ran her over.

“He did not see Ms Berridge, mostly likely because she was outside his field of vision.”

She suffered ‘catastrophic and immediately fatal injuries’.

Mr Llaveshi has not been prosecuted, the jury was told.

For Bedford Borough Council, Ben Mills said the council apologised unreservedly for falling short in a number of respects. He said the bus station had been in operation since 1958 and there had been no other incidents.

James Puzey for Cambus said the tragedy had been felt deeply by the company. He said it had learned lessons and put those into practice at a recent bus station development in Peterborough. He said the company had a good safety record.

Referring to the council, Mr Justice Turner said: “There was a distinct lack of structure of responsibility for works. The evidence left me with the strong feeling there was inadequate co-ordination.”

The judge said Cambus had parked buses too close to the zebra crossing, reducing visibility.

Costs of £16,803.59 were awarded against Bedford Borough Council.

The prosecutor said the cost of the trial and the investigation by the Health and Safety Executive was £335,490.05.

The judge is to make a ruling on the costs against Cambus at a later date following written submissions from the prosecution and defence.

Philip Simpkins, Chief Executive of Bedford Borough Council, said, “First and foremost our thoughts are with those who loved and knew Nicola and we express our condolences to them.

“This was, and remains, a distressing case for everyone involved.

“We fully accept the findings of the court case and the sentence this imposes. We thank the Judge for his attention and take the comments in his conclusion about Nicola’s sad death very seriously.

“As was recognised in the case the council made significant changes to the site both during the works and following the opening of Bedford Bus Station.

“Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Nicola Berridge at this very sad time.”

A Cambus spokesperson said: “The first thoughts of everyone at our company continue to be with the family and loved ones of Ms Berridge.

“This was a tragic accident and, while it did not involve one of our buses, the safety of passengers, pedestrians, other road users and our own employees will always be our absolute priority.

“We accept the decision of the court today. As a responsible company, we will continue to work closely with the other parties involved to learn lessons from what happened and identify any improvements which can be made.”

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