Doncaster railway worker jailed after car smashed into express train
A ‘devoted’ Doncaster railway worker who smashed his car into a high-speed express train when drunk and who a judge said could have caused a ‘catastrophe’ has been jailed.
Michael Rochford, who worked as a signal engineer for Network Rail, smashed his Range Rover into a fence alongside the East Coast Main Line in Rossington in June, ploughing into a high-speed LNER Azuma train.
He fled the scene of the accident and later said that his car had been stolen and that he was not behind the wheel of the vehicle following the crash on June 13.
But Rochford, who later pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, attempting to pervert the course of justice and failing to stop after an accident, was given ten months behind bars and banned from driving for four years after appearing at Sheffield Crown Court this morning.
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Sentencing Rochford, 27, Judge Jeremy Richardson said: “You could have caused a major train crash.
"Many people could have died. You could have caused an absolute catastrophe.”
The court heard how Rochford, who was described as ‘dependable, hardworking and reliable’ had now been sacked from his job at Network Rail and had worked on the stretch of rail where the smash took place.
On the afternoon of the collision, Rochford had spent the afternoon drinking heavily at nearby Rossington Main Football Club and then had got behind the wheel of his car.
As the Range Rover approached Rossington Level Crossing at around 8pm, the barriers were down as drivers awaited the arrival of a London to King’s Cross to Newcastle Azuma express train.
Rochford drove onto the pavement, smashed into a bench and then into a fence before colliding with the train.
Rail passengers reported hearing a loud bang, several were thrown from their seats and others reported suffering whiplash injuries as the train shook violently from side to side.
Witnesses reported seeing Rochford flee from the vehicle and he called his mother to come and pick him up, taking him to his grandmother’s house.
While there, he changed his clothes and was overheard telling people in a series of phone calls not to tell anyone where he had been.
He told his mum: “I was only racing – because I’m the best.”
After police discovered Rochford of Heatherfields Crescent, Rossington was the registered keeper of the vehicle, he was interviewed and he denied being the owner, saying his car had been stolen from Rossington Main after he had left his keys and wallet unattended the previous day.
However, CCTV footage proved this was not the case and that Rochford had been behind the wheel at the time of the incident which was captured on camera. He also failed a breath test.
The court heard that the smash had caused more than 15 hours of delays on the UK rail network and had cost nearly £345,000.
In a victim impact statement read in court, one passenger said: “Following the crash, I’ve had considerable pain in my neck and left arm which is ongoing.
"I keep replaying it my head what would have happened if the train had derailed. It has kept me awake.”
The court also heard how pensioner Jeffrey Shaw, who lives alongside the line, narrowly escaped injury after a metal pole uprooted in the smash flew through the air, smashed into his roof and landed just a foot away from him in his garden.
He said: “It has really shaken me up. I’ve never been scared by living near the railway, but this has really shaken me up.”
Defending, barrister Edward Moss said Rochford was of previous good character, with a clean driving licence and had shown ‘genuine remorse.’
He said that his client had recently suffered a relationship break up but had a new partner and added: “He was a railway signalman earning quite a lot of money with a responsible position on the railways.
"He has lost his job and is devastated by his actions and the impact it has had on him and his family.”
"He simply can’t explain his actions on that day. His actions after were out of sheer panic. He has never been in trouble before.”
Sentencing, Judge Richardson told a tearful Rochford: “You drank heavily and took leave of your senses.
"You drove at speed into the side of a fast moving express train.
“Each passenger was very shaken in emotional terms by what occurred. You could have caused a major catastrophe on the railway line when many people would have lost their lives. This is a very serious case.
"You have been dimissed from a job to which you were devoted and the chances of returning to the job you enjoyed are remote.”
"No one can take any pleasure from this case. It is a tragedy you find yourself in the position you do.”
He reduced Rochford’s sentence from 12 months to ten months, giving him credit for his guilty plea while also imposing a four year driving ban.