Trade unions, asbestos support groups and their lawyers are predicting an increase in the number of retired railway workers killed or made ill from asbestos exposure at former British Rail depots in the Derby area. The warning comes after specialist asbestos lawyers Thompsons secured compensation for two Derby men who worked for British Rail and have died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, and a third man who is currently suffering from the same terminal illness.

The first settled case concerns Colin Blower, from Belper, Derbyshire, who died of the deadly cancer in September 2006. In the late 1950s he worked as a fully qualified Fitter and Erector based at the British Rail Locomotive Plant in Doncaster. His widow Joan comments: “One of Colin’s hobbies was to work restoring a preserved railway line. His love of steam engines sadly brought about this premature death. We’re so angry with British Rail as he was never warned of the dangers of working with this killer substance.”

Although Mr Blower’s compensation claim has now been settled, an inquest into his death took place on 29th November 2006 and the coroner returned a verdict of death as a result of the industrial disease mesothelioma.

The second case concerns Mr Beadsworth who also died tragically from an asbestos related lung cancer in October 2005. Mr Beadsworth, from Littleover, Derby, died at the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary after returning from a holiday abroad. He had not been ill for long and it was a terrible shock to him and his wife Daphne that he was suffering from this condition.

Mr Beadworth was a member of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) who supported his case. At the inquest, the Coroner of Derby, Mr Peter Ashworth, confirmed that he had died of lung cancer which had been caused by exposure to asbestos dust during his employment as a coach fitter at the Locomotive Works in Derby where he worked for over 43 years.

The third case concerns David Ball, also from Derby. Mr Ball is 76 and is suffering from terminal mesothelioma. He worked for the Carriage and Waggon Works at British Rail on Litchurch Lane, Derby from 1949, when he left school, until his retirement in 1992.

David Ball comments: “I clearly remember my days at the Waggon Works, having to spray the whole of the inside of the coaches with blue asbestos approximately half to three quarters of an inch thick. I think they stopped using asbestos around 1970. By March 2005, I was clearly suffering from chest problems. At first they thought it was pneumonia. I then told my GP about the exposure to asbestos at the Railway and she sent me for tests and a biopsy. They diagnosed mesothelioma in July 2005. It was a terrible shock for me and my wife Joyce.”

Mr Ball recently underwent a groundbreaking "debulking operation" which is expected to extend his life. The operation was carried out at the Glenfield Hospital by Dr Waller – one of the only surgeons in the world carrying out this type of surgery.

Exposure to asbestos dust without protective equipment

The solicitor representing all three cases is Linda Millband from Thompsons Solicitors in Nottingham. She comments: “Throughout their working lives, these three British Rail employees from Derby were never provided with a mask or other protective equipment to stop the inhalation of the deadly asbestos dust, nor were they given any warnings about the dangers of working with asbestos. British Rail was a major local employer and we anticipate many more similar cases and would urge anyone that is concerned to visit their GP without delay.”

A spokesperson from the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team (DAST), comments: “We’re pleased that we’ve been able to provide support to the families of Mr Ball and Mr Blower. We will continue to campaign and ensure that those who have developed asbestos related diseases can access justice. We also need to highlight the dangers of asbestos exposure, particularly to those in occupations still at risk.”