Beccles, United Kingdom:Network Rail fined GBP0.5 million for level crossing collision

28 Jun

Network Rail, the national rail infrastructure manager has been fined GBP0.5 million and ordered to pay costs of GB0.023 million following a prosecution (for breach of S3 (1) of HASAWA 1972) brought by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for a breach of health and safety law which led to a 10 year old boy suffering serious injuries at a level crossing on a private road near Beccles, Suffolk, in 2010.

Today’s sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court follows an ORR investigation into a train-car collision on July 3rd, 2010 at a level crossing between Beccles station and Oulton Broad South station in Suffolk. The train was travelling at 55mph when it struck the car, causing it to spin and throw the passenger, a 10 year old boy, through a window. The collision caused the passenger to suffer life-changing injuries while the driver of the car received minor injuries.

ORR’s investigation found that the accident was caused by poor visibility of trains when approaching the crossing from the south side. ORR found Network Rail failed to act on information obtained from its own employees over a ten-year period which highlighted that users of the crossing were exposed to an increased risk of being struck by a train. Network Rail pleaded guilty to the charge on March 13th 2013, at Lowestoft Crown Court.

ORR’s Director of Railway Safety, Ian Prosser, said “Our investigation found evidence that Network Rail knew the level crossing on a private road near Beccles was unsafe for ten years, and yet took no action. This led to the collision between a car and train in July 2010 which left a 10 year old boy suffering life changing injuries. This is unacceptable from a company responsible for protecting the safety of millions of people on trains and at level crossings.”

Mr Prosser continued “Since this incident, Network Rail has recognised significant changes are needed to improve the way it manages safety at level crossings. This includes the introduction of level crossing managers responsible for inspecting and carrying out risk assessments at all level crossings. ORR continues to monitor the company’s progress. To improve safety at level crossings ORR has recently announced a GBP67 million fund for Network Rail to invest in the closure or upgrade of level crossings across Great Britain over the next five years.”

5 Responses to “Beccles, United Kingdom:Network Rail fined GBP0.5 million for level crossing collision”

  1. Andrew Fraser June 28, 2013 at 11:25 #

    Deperately sad, of course, but I’m wondering whether ORR is (after all) a different beast from HSE-HMRI … which steadfastly refused to accept that there could be anything wrong with a certain LX near me …

    • aidannelson June 28, 2013 at 13:30 #

      I believe so. However, I still feel that they are too slow in taking action against the competent highways authority and, by extension, the authorised user of a private level crossing if there are matters within their control, rather than within the control of the rail infrastructure manager.

      • Andrew Fraser June 28, 2013 at 13:42 #

        The blame culture personified! Although there is a hint therein that there may be matters currently outside the “control” of any of the “authorities” involved. To date, I haven’t been able to overcome the rail industry’s (understandable) inability to suspend its disbelief in such matters, but battle on we must …

  2. aidannelson June 28, 2013 at 14:14 #

    I don’t see the taking of enforcement action as a blame culture issue. Rather, it is the taking of action against a party, in this case Network Rail, which has failed to manage risk SFAIRP. This principle must equally to the competent highways authority, whether a public body or private party, the authorised user. If these competent bodies manage risk – so far as each of them is concerned – it is then appropriate to consider whether the party using the level crossing has acted in a way that they fall short of the mandated requirements applicable to them as motorists, pedestrian etc. If so this assertion should be tested through the courts.

    If a level crossing is engineered appropriately, sufficient targeted education of level crossing users has been made and therefore risk is managed SFAIRP. Surely, there must then be consideration of enforcement against those who misuse level crossings, particularly where misuse is in fact a wilful failure to use a level crossing as required?

  3. Andrew Fraser July 5, 2013 at 16:16 #

    But that’s just it. How can we be so sure what is wilful and what is not? Red light cameras (my concern) cannot do that.

    What I seek to avoid is the application of strict liability to a situation in which drivers are having genuine difficulty in complying with instructions. In the particular case of ******, drivers are not seeing the amber light and are straying on to the crossing after cameras have been armed. Subsequently, they are automatically detected and prosecuted. They cannot properly defend themselves, of course, because they know no more about the psychology/physiology of perception than do their prosecutors.

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