RAIB accident report at Kings Mill level crossing published

The RAIB (Rail Accident Investigation Branch – part of the DfT)  published their report into the incident at Kings Mill crossing on 2 May 2012 last week. The incident resulted in the death of Philip Dawn who was cycling across the tracks when he was struck and fatally injured by a train. You can see the report here.

I hope the report made difficult reading for Network Rail’s route management team. The crossing was inadequately protected by the train drivers blowing the horn to warn crossing users. The line speed was increased and Network Rail approved the change in speed even though the time required to traverse the crossing was greater than the time allowed following the horn sounding.

The crossing had been promoted as part of a Heritage Trail and there is an increased risk with disabled users on mobility scooters using the crossing.

I spoke with Philip Dawn’s sister yesterday. The family are extremely disappointed that the report appears place the responsibility for Phil’s death on his shoulders. She had seen the train’s forward facing camera footage and accepts that her brother must have been wearing headphones as he did not react at all to the train horn sounded as the train approach the crossing and Phil was in it’s path.

Their concern is that two pedestrians helped him by holding the gate open so that he could ride across, and wonders if they had not heard the warning from the train – they were not wearing headphones. What if a deaf person wants to use the crossing? There is insufficient sighting to cross safely.

The crossing has now been amended – straightening what was a skewed crossing at about 40° so Phil was facing away from the train as it approached.  As I was grateful for Liv and Charlie facing away from the train and quite literally did not know anything about it ;Phil’s sister takes comfort from the knowledge that he seemed completely unaware of the approaching train.

Network Rail are trialling a prototype warning at Kings Mill which provides a warning sound emitted at the crossing triggered by the train approaching and picked up through the vibration in the rails, but extra warnings appear to be emitted once the train has gone through and if this happens frequently enough the users will begin to lose trust in the warnings.  They have at least straightened the crossing thereby shortening the crossing time.

The Inquest into Philip Dawn’s death is yet to be scheduled.

First level crossing death in 2013

A sad start to 2013 with the news of a death on the level crossing at Yarnton in Oxfordshire. No details yet of what happened, but the initial unconfirmed report I heard suggested a mechanical failure of the car. It is another automatic half barrier crossing – the same type of barrier where a grandmother drove her car onto a crossing and it was hit by a train in Yorkshire less than a month  ago. That day a little girl was killed. Today someone else lost their life.

Automatic half barriers are little more than car park barriers – affording little protection and providing no warning to the train via the signals if a car or other obstacle is on the track at the crossing.

Network Rail needs to invest in research into alternative more appropriate protection and to phase out these dangerous crossings.