A former railway worker who carried out a campaign of vandalism which caused massive disruption to train services in the West Midlands today won a two-and-a-half-year cut in his 10-year jail sentence.
In January, Allan Nicol, of Yardley, Birmingham, was found guilty of arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, by setting fire to a trackside relay room in Rugeley, Staffordshire, in November 2005.
He was cleared of endangering lives through criminal damage when he cut signalling cables at Kingsbury Junction, Warwickshire, in 2004.
Nicol, 48, had previously admitted 12 offences of causing criminal damage to tracks in the West Midlands between June 2004 and November 2005.
The campaign caused financial loss of more than #4 million to Network Rail and unquantifiable inconvenience to passengers, Birmingham Crown Court was told.
It caused a total of almost 2,000 hours of delays and disrupted more than 200,000 passengers, British Transport Police said.
The sabotage to the railway infrastructure was without precedent and was the most severe vandalism ever seen on Britain’s railways, paralysing tracks in the West Midlands, which also affected other parts of the country.
During his trial, the court heard that Nicol, who was made redundant in in August 2005, acted as he did in response to what he perceived as ongoing problems at Network Rail, including conditions of work, the way staff were treated and the way mistakes were dealt with.
Today, at London’s Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Toulson said that Nicol, who was of previous good character, came across as an obsessive perfectionist who was subject to a great deal of work-related stress.
"He felt a sense of responsibility for his men which collided with an increasing sense of impotence in relation to his concerns about safety standards which he perceived as inadequate," said the judge, sitting with Mr Justice Davis and Mr Justice Underhill.
"This campaign of vandalism was never going to make life safer for his colleagues or anybody else.
"All it could possibly do was make life a great deal more difficult for all concerned and to increase the annoyance and, ultimately, the cost suffered by members of the public and shareholders of the company.
"Plainly, there was in his conduct an element of revenge, primarily on behalf of others for whom he bore this grievance."
Bearing in mind positive prison reports, the fact that Nicol regretted his actions and had no intention of repeating them, and the legal authorities, he concluded that the appropriate sentence for the arson offence was one of seven and a half years rather than ten.