BRITISH Rail has paid £60,000 in compensation to the family of a former Swindon railway worker who died from asbestos related cancer.

Philip Smith, of Medgbury Road, in the town centre worked for British Rail for 26 years at its Swindon works and for much of that period was continuously exposed to asbestos. He died in November 2010.

The news comes a day after the Adver’s special report into the illness, dubbed the ‘Swindon Disease’ because the building material was so prevalent at the town’s Railway Works.

We revealed yesterday that an estimated 2,000 people will die from the disease which will peak in 2016.

Mr Smith worked in the AE shop, at one time the largest workshop in Europe, where his job was to plaster white asbestos over steam boilers. Many of his colleagues have also died from asbestos related illnesses, and mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer.

Mr Smith’s solicitor Brigitte Chandler, a leading industrial disease lawyer and partner with Swindon law firm Charles Lucas & Marshall and who has represented hundreds of railway workers over the last 30 years, says Mr Smith became unwell two years before his death, which was caused by diffuse pleural thickening due to exposure to asbestos.

“There are still many people in Swindon who worked in the railway industry who are being affected by asbestos exposure,” she said.

“On a more positive note, British Rail is now well aware of the problem and providing someone can show they worked there and were exposed to asbestos, many claims are now generally settled out of court.”

BRB (Residuary) Limited, the company with responsibility for the British Rail works in Swindon, settled Mr Smith’s claim out of court.

Deaths from asbestos exposure are likely to peak over the next few years, with new research showing that 107 people have died from the illness in Swindon in the last three years.

Anyone suffering from chest problems who has been exposed to asbestos should seek medical advice.

Ms Chandler said: “Unfortunately the area where Mr Smith worked was notorious for using large quantities of asbestos and there have been other deaths from employees working in the same area.

“Claims against British Rail for asbestos exposure have been running for over 30 years.

“Even though the works were closed 25 years ago, cases are still arising because it can take up to 60 years for the illness to develop after exposure.”

The Swindon and South West Asbestos Group is a regional charity that provides support groups and a free advice service to people suffering from asbestos disease and their families.

For further details contact Swindon and South West Asbestos Group, telephone 01793 532995 or email it on