Inept tree surgeon hit with £6,000 court bill after train line felling accident

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A SUNDERLAND tree surgeon has been ordered to pay almost £6,000 after chopping down a tree that was hit by a train.

Mark Connelly, from Washington, was contracted by Gateshead Council to fell two large poplars near a railway line.

The 41-year-old was not qualified to fell a tree of that size and failed to provide a winch that would catch it.

It ended up landing on the line, between Wylam in Northumberland and Ryton in Gateshead on January 11 2012.

Connelly, and his employee Peter Wood, tried to remove the tree trunk, to make the line safe for oncoming trains but failed to do it in time.

The 11.22am service from Newcastle to Carlisle ploughed into the trunk and injured Mr Wood.

He was knocked unconscious and was left with a broken ankle and significant bruising to his leg, arm and head.

Both Connelly and the local authority admitted breaching health and safety law over the work on the 25-metre-high trees.

Connelly, of Calders Crescent, Fatfield, was sentenced to a community order for 12 month and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £5,854 court costs.

Gateshead Council was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay the same costs.

Mr Recorder Prosser said he accepted the incident had not been a deliberate attempt to flout health and safety laws.

He added: “It was an unfortunate and frightening incident.”

The judge said it was not the intention to take money away from public services but councils must face fines over safety breaches.

The judge added: “Any breach of health and safety legislation is a serious matter.”