A former British Rail worker has been awarded £180,000 in compensation after he was exposed to asbestos in the workplace.

Kenneth Chapman, 74, from Caterham in Surrey, was diagnosed with fatal cancer of the lining of the lung mesothelioma after working for New Southern Railway, part of British Rail from the 1950s until he retired in 1996.

The divorcee, who has no children, was exposed to asbestos while working as a fireman, boiler cleaner and train driver.

Asbestos used on boilers and pipes

He said asbestos was used on the boilers and pipes in the locomotives which he worked in daily.

He added that he can remember asbestos dust being thrown into the air when a train he was in crashed into a buffer stop.

He said: “No-one was hurt. We got away with it then, but I suppose we are paying for it now. The asbestos dust was terrible and what I have got now is caused by it.”

Mr Chapman was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2007. The disease has no cure and sufferers often have just months to live.

He said he had never heard of the disease when he was diagnosed but knew afterwards that he had developed it from working for British Rail. He added that he decided to pursue compensation to make sure someone took responsibility for his condition.

Mr Chapman said: “I have had a good life. But if someone caused this disease then they should pay for it. The employer let us work in those conditions and failed to make us aware of what it can do to our health.”

Mesothelioma Compensation was secured during his lifetime

He got in touch with his union Aslef, the union for train drivers and operators, and their lawyers Thompsons Solicitors dealt with the case.

Keith Norman, General Secretary for Aslef said: “We will continue to fight to ensure asbestos victims, like Mr Chapman, receive full compensation for the injuries they have suffered through merely carrying out a hard day’s work.

“It is only right that these victims are compensated by their employers’ insurers for the hardship caused through being exposed to asbestos.”

Anne Marie Wilson, a client representative at Thompsons Solicitors who helped Mr Chapman win his claim added: “Mesothelioma is a devastating disease which can strike up to 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos. We are pleased we have been able to secure compensation for Mr Chapman during his lifetime.”