Taunton, United Kingdom: RAIB to investigate fatal collision

22 Apr
Athelney AHB level crossing, source RAIB

Athelney AHB level crossing, source RAIB

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has announced that it is investigating the fatal accident at Athelney automatic half barrier level crossing, near Taunton, Somerset, that occurred on March 21st, 2013.

The crossing is of the automatic half barrier type.  At such crossings one barrier on each side of the railway is automatically lowered to block half of the road and thus prohibit approaching vehicles from passing through.  The lowering of the barriers is preceded by the operation of flashing road traffic signals, which then continue to operate until the barriers are raised.

Evidence gathered to date suggests that the car had been detained at the crossing with the barriers down and the road traffic signals working correctly.  The car was then driven round the crossing barriers and onto the crossing where the collision occurred.

The crossing closure sequence would normally be automatically initiated by an approaching train.  For trains approaching at the maximum permitted speed of 100 mph (160 km/h), the warning lights start to flash around 27-28 seconds before the train arrives, and the barriers start to lower around 20 seconds before the train arrives.  However, on this occasion the crossing closure sequence commenced earlier.  This was because the previous train, an engineers’ on-track machine, had passed through the crossing in the opposite direction to normal.  Under these circumstances, the configuration of the signalling controls at the crossing meant that the closure sequence started when the signaller set the route through the crossing for the passenger train (1A73) that struck the road vehicle.

The RAIB’s investigation will examine the sequence of events and the factors that may have influenced the actions of the car driver.  It will also include an assessment of the design of the signalling controls for Athelney level crossing and a review of the arrangements made to manage the risk from automatic level crossing barriers being in the lowered position for variable periods of time.

The RAIB’s investigation is independent of any investigation by the safety authority (the Office of Rail Regulation) or the British Transport Police.

The RAIB will publish a report, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of its investigation.  This report will be available on the RAIB website.

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