THE family of a devoted family man killed by a runaway train wagon almost eight years ago accepted a £150,000 compensation pay-out at London's High Court this week.

The court heard company director Mr Ernest Clark had a glittering future ahead of him and stood to make a fortune out of rail privatisation before he and three workmates were killed on the Metropolitan line near Chorleywood Station on May 16, 1990.

The 41-year-old was working in the early hours of the morning when the vacuum brakes of a flatbed wagon parked at Chorleywood Station failed and started rolling downhill towards Rickmansworth on the Metropolitan line.

The court heard how Mr Clark, managing director of Clark Rail Ltd, did not hear the wagon approaching because he and his crew were walking behind a noisy machine used for compacting ballast.

Mr George Pulman QC, for Mr Clark's family, told the court: "The wagon knocked them down, killing them almost instantly."

Mr Clark left his widow, Joan, 47, of Dumbartonshire, Scotland, and his three children, Steven, 28, Diane, 25, and Susan, 19.

Mr Pulman claimed the tragedy, caused by leakage of the wagon's vacuum brakes, could have been avoided.

He claimed a London Underground train master, whose duty it was to maintain safety on the line and to make sure the wagon was securely anchored to the track, had been negligent.

He told Deputy High Court Judge James Goudie QC: "It is our case the train master just did not do his job."

London Underground denied all blame for the disaster, insisting it was Mr Clark himself who should have secured the rail anchor on the wagon.

The court heard Mr Clark had worked most of his life on the railways before deciding to go it alone and set up as a private contractor.

Earning about £35,000 a year, Mr Clark was able to do the work far more cheaply than rail companies could manage in-house because he could employ a highly skilled but non-unionised labour force to work at anti-social hours, said Mr Pulman.

Rail privatisation led to a boom for private contractors and Mr Pulman told the judge that Mr Clark, a highly experienced and respected man, had been ideally placed to cash in and make a roaring success of his business.

On Monday, mid-way through the first day of a trial expected to last a week, Mr Pulman announced the parties had agreed terms.

London Underground agreed to pay £150,000, of which £135,000 will go to Mrs Clark and £15,000 will go to the children.

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