Following the unsatisfactory Inquest, Tina decided to take civil action against Network Rail to prove that they were negligent in the way that they had managed risk at Elsenham and expose the general poor quality of their level crossing risk management.
Network Rail went through the process of defending the case but after two years conceded and settled out of court. This was very disappointing as a quiet settlement was not what Tina wanted for the case – the intention to use the media attention at the end of the case to alert the rail regulator to take some action to improve matters.
The settlement, a maximum of £10,000 for the death of a child where there are no dependents, less 10% discounted for “contributory negligence”, was certainly not why the civil case was taken.
At the end of the case the papers were returned to Tina by her solicitors. A cursory glance through them before consigning them to the loft alerted her to a risk assessment undertaken in 2002 that she had not seen before and after checking with the Coroner, RAIB and HMRI found that none of the authorities had seen this either.
Following the exposure that this risk assessment that had not previously been made available to the Coroner or accident investigators in The Times, the Office of Rail Regulation re-opened the investigation into the accident at Elsenham that led to the deaths of Olivia and Charlie.
What led to Tina’s involvement in level crossings?
At the time of the accident, Tina worked (and continues to work) as a project manager for Atkins, a civil engineering company, who with some experience of managing risk at project level, was appalled at the standard of risk management that became evident during the year following Olivia’s death.
At the time of the media exposure of the withheld risk assessments, David Higgins arrived as Chief Executive Officer at Network Rail with a proud safety record from the Olympics Delivery Authority. He recognised Tina’s interest in improving standards in Network Rail and asked her to became Network Rail’s Level Crossing User Champion. Tina had already been working with the Head of Community Safety for a number of years prior to her formal role which started in July 2011.
What is a Level Crossing User Champion?
Tina was asked by the Chief Executive of Network Rail, David Higgins, to provide a users perspective on level crossing matters. She presents to Network Rail staff and others in the industry about why improvements to level crossings must be made. She supports the new National Level Crossing Team in Network Rail by providing a sounding board for their ideas and promotes their work within Network Rail to gain support for the business change programme that is being undertaken.
She is asked to speak at a conferences about level crossing and rail safety and has presented at the International Level Crossing Symposium.
She has attended local Rail User Groups to provide support for changes and improvements in the safety and protection of level crossings.
She provides information into the national team about level crossings that local users believe are particularly dangerous to expedite improvements or closure.
She has spoken on local and national radio to gain commitment for changes and closures of level crossings.
She has appeared on local and national TV to promote awareness of the dangers of level crossings and to gain commitment and budget for change.
She writes a regular column for Network Rail’s quarterly newsletter.
She has written commentaries for The Times to expose the previously withheld risk assessments and the lack of transparency in Network Rail and to gain commitment from the Rail Regulator to re-open the investigation into the deaths of Olivia and Charlie at Elsenham.
She has lobbied the Secretary of State for Transport, her local MP and industry bodies to expose the poor risk management practices and non-disclosure of documents.
She watched as The Office of Rail Regulation undertook a forensic investigation of Network Rail’s IT system to locate documents that had not been provided to the Coroner, the Dept for Transport’s Rail Accident Investigation Branch or HMRI, the Rail Inspectorate at the time.
She went to the criminal court to watch Network Rail plead guilty to three breaches of the law that led to Olivia and Charlie’s deaths and pay the fine of £1m.
And perhaps most importantly she tells the Chief Executive when she thinks that the company, or it’s executives, is dragging its heels and asks for his assistance to unblock obstacles and resistance to the changes that are underway.
I have just watched you participate in a discussion on the BBC news channel on closing level crossings. I do not know the detail of any proposed individual level crossing closure but I do hope that those that do are able to arrive at implemented solutions that best meet the diverse needs of local people and people from elsewhere.
The purpose of writing is to say thank you to you and others in your campaign for your perseverance, dedication and humanity.
Well done and God Bless
Stoke on Trent
See my blog today in response to all your comments about the Long Rock Crossing.
Please publish my reply. This is turning into a biassed presentation of views. Who is the moderator blocking this? NR?
I have published your comments, Nick Tregenza, and others. Though why you think you have a ‘right’ to being published on my personal web page is a bit if a surprise.
I am not paid to make comments on behalf of Network Rail and am rather appalled that you even suggest that I am saying what they want me to say. I fought for 6 years to get the truth about what happened at Elsenham exposed and to make Network Rail make changes in the way they manage risk at level crossings.
I thought it was the Coroner who instructed the crossing should be closed – not Network Rail. Sorry if I am mistaken!
Dear Tina Hughes,
Thank you for publishing the comments. I began to doubt the nature of your website when the email address given on it bounced and my comments were witheld for days.
I do think that if you appear on the BBC making statements about our crossing and supporting NR’s dangerous efforts to close it then you should accept that others do have a right to reply.
The Deputy Assistant Coroner made a recommendation here without making any proper attempt to assess what danger he was creating, and he misrepresented the evidence given by the RAIB. Coroners are not experts in these matters or even in diagnosis and substantial research shows that they regularly mis-diagnose suicides as accidents. However Cornwall Council treated the Coroner as an absolute authority and have compounded his error.
We respect your motivation but hope that it doesn’t lead to more deaths here and in other places where the rail crossing is the safer of the routes people will use. We also ask you to recognise that closure can do real damage to communities and the health of people, and hope that you may press NR to change its policy which gives no respect to these off-rail impacts.
Although I sympathise with Tina Hughes on the loss of her daughter in tragic circumstances her effort on breakfastnews TV was so clearly influenced by Network Rail. They will use any excuse to close all the crossings like the Mexico crossing at Long Rock. Her biased view like NR did not take into account the effect that this closure has on our comunity. NR hatchet woman Sarah mitchell made their position clear at a site meeting in December, and I can assure all that the residents will fight to re-establish our crossing as safe and better than the alternative routes that we are forced to follow due to the ongoing temporary closure. Already I myself have been subjected to a near accident on the much advocated barrier controlled gated crossing that requires a 1Km detour to reach the beach and walks that I have used with no problems for the 45 years I have been resident in Long Rock.
I am a mother and a dog walker who lives in Long Rock and forced by Council Cornwall to walk the “alternative safe route”.
We are very passionate about what has happened during the last 12months with our fight to keep Mexico crossing open.
The so called accident (of Jan Nicholls) is in no way the same as what happened to your daughter.
Jan Nicholls used the crossing every day, on that sad morning she made the wrong decision and lost her life.
Since having to use the alternative route it’s life threatening to use on a daily basis.
I myself with my dog have nearly been knocked over and made to jump into the hedge TWICE. My husband has had the same far too many times to mention.
A neighbour recently was brushed by a car (whilst using the crossing 250yards away) and is now asking it to be investigated.
One family of 5 generations were nearly completely wiped out, it made the local news.
Cornwall Council forced these 2 “safe routes” upon us without walking them themselves.
Network Rail don’t care as long as it’s not their problem anymore as they want all foot crossings closed.
The Mexico crossing predates the railway .
The Mexico crossing, that I’ve used for 12 years takes me seconds to get across and I feel safer as do many of Long Rock residents, locals, and holiday makers. The shop has suffered financially, so too has the Mexico and Mount view Inn.
It won’t be long before somebody loses their life by just walking the extra 250yards. The same 250yards you pointed out.
Maybe when you are down in beautiful Cornwall pay us a visit and walk the deadly route.
Or maybe we should all stop walking? And use the car?
Maybe we should all walk the dangerous route just to visit our lovely beach?
Maybe all the elderly residents should stop their exercise routine and quietly wait for a quiet end?
But I will leave this point with you. Its not trains that kill, it’s the person who making the wrong decision to walk in front of them. I have no power if a car (whilst using the “safe alternative route) hits me. Cornwall Council have forced this on me and many others.
I hope all those campaigning for Mexico crossing closure can live with this.
Sadly Tina Hughes has lost any sense of balance in the way she is supporting closures of crossings.
She has this week appeared on BBC television supporting the closure of a crossing of a single track in Cornwall where closure increases the risk to local people by displacing some users on to a very dangerous road bridge.
But Tina, without investigating the local facts is parotting Network Rail’s line on this, and both Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation are clear about the fact that they do n ot look at the risks closures create off the railway, so from their perspective every closure improves safety.
In this case the death, although said to be an accident, was of a lady whose behaviour was suicidal.
What will Tina say to the mother of a child killed on the road?
Joined up thinking and a balanced apprach is needed, and Network Rail shows no committment to either. See www . stopnetworkrail . org . uk