Old Bailey finds rail operator at fault, but clears five executives of corporate responsibility for 2000 rail disaster.

Network Rail was today convicted at the Old Bailey of breaking health and safety rules in the months preceding the Hatfield rail disaster.

But three Railtrack managers, and two former employees of Balfour Beatty, the firm that maintained the line, were cleared.

Four people died and 102 were injured when the King's Cross to Leeds train came off the tracks at 115 mph on 17 October 2000.

The prosecution argued that the derailment occurred because of a “cavalier attitude” to safety. The defence maintained it was unfair to make the five executives scapegoats.

QC Jonathan Goldberg told the court that they worked in an underfunded industry that had been neglected by governments for more than 40 years and had undergone a "botched and unworkable privatisation".

The cleared defendants were Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance Limited regional director Anthony Walker, 48; Nicholas Jeffries, 50, civil engineer for the same firm; Railtrack North Eastern managers Alistair Cook, 52, and Sean Fugill, 52, and Railtrack LNE track engineer Keith Lea, 55.

Balfour Beatty had already been formally cleared by Mr Justice Mackay of a corporate manslaughter charge before today's verdicts.