Brothers who worked on Swindon railways killed by asbestos diseases

THE families of two railway workers killed by what’s been called ‘Swindon disease’ are suing the government for compensation.

Alan Neale and his brother Raymond both worked at the Great Western Railways repair shop during the 1950s then died decades later due to asbestos-related health conditions.

In 2008, former French polisher Raymond died at 76 of mesothelioma – a lung cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibres – and 87-year-old railway carriage painter Alan died in January this year from an incurable chronic lung condition called asbestosis.

Alan’s wife Pamela asked solicitors Novum Law for help and Raymond’s son Danny Neale remembers how often the siblings would mention the clumps of thick asbestos dust which covered the workshops.

Danny said: “They described how, during breaks from work, they and their workmates would roll the asbestos into balls and play football or cricket with them, depending on the season.

“They had no idea that decades later, their exposure to the white substance that blew around the railway works ‘like snow’ would eventually lead to their deaths. 

“My family and I want to raise awareness about the link between working on the railways and asbestos disease.

“Many people don’t realise that you can get diagnosed with asbestos disease many years after being first exposed – in my Uncle Alan’s case, it was over 60 years before he became seriously unwell.

“Both brothers only worked in the repair shops for just a few years, so you don’t need to be exposed all your working life to be affected by asbestos disease.”

More than 35 years after the GWR repair shops closed, families in Swindon are still feeling the side-effects of working in such hazardous conditions.

The railway carriages were lined with asbestos and their roofs were skimmed with an asbestos coating.

Novum Law is a firm based near Greenbridge Retail Park with lawyers who deal specifically in cases related to workers who later died because of asbestos diseases.

Alan Joliffe is supporting the Neale family, who hope to get justice for him and receive compensation for his premature death.

He said: “This is a particularly unfortunate case.

“To have one family member die from asbestos exposure is bad enough but for two brothers to be struck down by fatal diseases caused by contact with asbestos as they go about their daily work on Swindon’s railway is a horrendous position for any family to be in.

“The use of asbestos in the railway industry was widespread between the 1950s and 1980s, and sadly for Swindon, the devastating impact is still being felt and will continue to do so for many years to come.

“The risk of asbestos disease is not just limited to the railway repair shops.

“Any number of trades associated with the railway industry will be affected – from welders, carpenters, laggers, boilermakers, engineers, and painters, to name a few.

“These are decent, hardworking people who were exposed to a deadly substance just by going about their daily lives, without being given the proper protection or safety advice they needed.”

The brothers were exposed to asbestos during their working days as the railway carriages were lined with asbestos, and the carriages’ roofs were skimmed with an asbestos coating.

GWR could not comment on the situation because it did not exist in its current form at the time of the asbestos issue and the matter related to the former British Railways Western Group.

The Department for Transport inherited all liability from that group and could not comment on specific cases.

A DfT spokesman addded: “Our thoughts are with all those affected, and we continue to work with their families to ensure that, where liability exists, claimants are compensated fairly and without undue delay.”

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