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Capreol, ONT: Extended crossing closures are of wider concern

7 Feb

young-street-capreol-level-crossing

In Canada trains can occupy a level crossing for an indefinite period while moving plus a stationary maximum time of five minutes. Using incidents of extended closures to road traffic in Cawreol, the case for change is being developed.

Specifically the Young Street level crossing in Cawreol sits on a single track railway, to the south of a single track triangular junction with an east-west line which is double tracked to the west with additional tracks serving a terminal facility and single to the east.

Reports referencing closure to road traffic of the Young Street level crossing for between 30-40 minutes have prompted municipal action for a change to the permissible blockage time of public level crossings to a maximum of 12 minutes which is the sum of time spent moving and standing with excess occupation of a crossing attracting a fine payable to the local administration.

 

Needham Market, UK: Network Rail fined GBP 4.0 million for 2011 crossing fatality

22 Sep

Network Rail, having previously admitted their guilt, has been fined GBP 4.0 million in the matter of a fatality on the Gipsy Lane footpath level crossing near Needham Market, Suffolk, in August 2011.

Passing sentence Judge Martyn Levett said he would have imposed a fine of GBP 6.0 million but for Network Rail’s guilty plea at the first opportunity.

Given just five-seconds visual warning of a train in respect of a known high-risk crossing where it might take a vulnerable user twice that to cross, a lower speed limit should have been imposed.

Indeed, Network Rail staff had proposed a cut from 100 mph to 55mph  not long before the accident. However, no change was made before the fatality occurred as a more senior manager had planned to look at this when he returned from holiday. The judge said the decision should have been made there and then, adding a limit had been imposed immediately after the death.

 

Network Rail is  working to replace the crossing with a footbridge.

Needham Market, UK:Big fine on its way

19 Sep

During the first day of a sentencing hearing at Ipswich Crown Court, following a plea of guilty at a prior magistrates hearing, it emerged that Network Rail could be faced with a fine of up to GBP6.0 million. This is in the context of a fatal collision between a train and a pedestrian using the Gipsy Lane footpath crossing near Needham Market, Suffolk, on August 24th, 2011.

The magnitude of the fine reflects what has been presented to the court by the prosecution concerning the failure of Network Rail to manage risk arising at the level crossing, which is at a location where the line-speed at the time of the accident was 100mph (160kph). This was despite a July 2011 risk assessment making the case for a speed reduction to 85mph to better control risk  and a subsequent pre fatal accident input by a Network Rail staff member that the sline-speed should be reduced to 55mph.

Related failures of Network Rail raised by the prosecution related to vegetation limiting sighting by users of the footpath level crossing and an incorrectly placed whistle board providing an inadequate audible warning to users of this crossing.

It also emerged that the family of the victim are aggrieved that Network Rail never wrote to express its condolences. If this was the case it is understandable that the family feels that Network Rail callously failed to manage risk at the Gipsy Lane footpath crossing over many years.

The Sentencing hearing was adjourned until September 21st, 2016.

 

Wareham, Dorset, UK: Crossing stand-off continues

14 Apr

The footpath level crossing just metres away from the town’s station continues to generate passion whether for or against eliminating the level crossing.

Despite regulator ORR slapping an improvement notice on Network Rail and Dorset County Council in 2010 to address risk at one of the country’s least safe level crossings, hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for the retention of this level crossing. Meanwhile Network Rail has improved matters on a ‘temporary basis by installing a locking gate and posting an attendant at the crossing. Even with these controls overlaid onto a crossing equipped with warning lights and audible alarms, Network Rail still maintains its position that the crossing needs to be eliminated on safety grounds as misuse is still being reported..

The permanent solution proposed by Network Rail was a ramped access footbridge to replace both this level crossing and the footbridge at the station just metres away. This solution was last year turned down by Purbeck District Council on the grounds that it was too large and increased walking time expected of pedestrians.

Now Dorset County Council and Network Rail are looking at further options.

 

Winona, MN: Pedestrian underpasses too late for student

18 Jan

A Winona State University (WSU) student was killed when hit by a train in the small hours of January 17th, 2014. The accident occurred on the Hull Street level crossing which is located near the campus in Winona. The circumstances surrounding the accident are the subject of investigation.

After many years of discussion WSU succeeded in securing agreement from partners, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and Minnesota’s Department of Transportation, that led to a project to construct two pedestrian underpasses at the Winona Street and Johnson Street intersections with the CPR right of way which are both close to the WSU campus. Although construction began in spring 2015, it will be later this year before the new routes under CPR’s tracks are ready for use.

 

UK: Ten years on and a very different place

16 Dec

If one event has changed the way in which Network Rail, Britain’s national rail infrastructure manager, thinks about safety, it was the death of two teenage girls on the station pedestrian crossing at Elsenham in Essex in December 2005.

This sea change was from a standard “level crossings are safe if used properly” blame the user rubric to one of a proactive national programme to reduce level crossing risk. But this took relentless pressure from the bereaved to get to the truth behind the deaths of Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson. Most visible were Olivia’s parents Tina Hughes and Chris Bazlinton.

The pressure from the families exposed a very sorry state of affairs with unacceptably poor risk management given that long before these Elsenham fatalities, there was knowledge within Network Rail of the need for action to reduce risk so far as was reasonably practicable. This formed the basis of a belated successful prosecution of Network Rail for their failure to manage risk in accordance with health and safety legislation.

Although level crossing safety in Britain compared favourably internationally in 2005, it was in 2010 that Network Rail launched its level crossing safety improvement programme, within which Tina Hughes acts as a users’ champion, for which she was recognised with the award of an MBE.

A key component of the programme has been the recruitment of more than 100 level crossing managers each of whom manages safety at about 60 level crossings, both public and private. The work of these managers is underpinned by a range of initiatives from closure to upgrade, including the adoption of new technologies. Equally important is the relationship these managers build with the authorised users of private crossings and within the community in the case of public crossings.

Since 2010, Network Rail has:

  • Closed 987 level crossings
  • Improved sighting at 1,100 crossings
  • Fitted 494 level crossings with brighter LED lights
  • Fitted 113 level crossings  with spoken audible warnings to announce when “another train is coming” after one train has passed through. This control is a direct outcome of the Elsenham fatalities
  • Fitted 66 sets of barriers at automatic open level crossings
  • Fitted a further 66 crossings with a time delay, preventing a signaller from mistakenly raising the barriers as a train approaches. This control is a direct outcome of the Moreton-on-Lugg fatality
  • Fitted more than 20 level crossings with Home Office approved red light safety cameras which act like speed cameras and capture motorists crossing after the warning sequence has begun
  • Provided the British Transport Police with a fleet of 15 mobile safety vehicles with number plate recognition camera technology introduced to target misuse
  • Begun fitting 81 private level crossings with power operated gates
  • Developed and begun installing a less costly modular footbridge to facilitate elimination of footpath and station pedestrian level crossings
  • With RSSB further developed the All Level Crossing Risk Model (ALCRM) to allow a better understanding of the specific risks at each crossing and deploy appropriate warning and protection measures

At the time of writing, the last accidental fatality (excluding intentional deaths) was on February 8th, 2015. This is the longest time without an accidental fatality since the level crossing programme began in 2010.

Thus, the legacy of the deaths of Olivia and Charlotte in 2005 is that today Britain has the best level crossings safety record of any major railway in Europe, and probably the world.

Rainier, MN: Trains blocking level crossings is a growing issue

11 May

One very small town is fast coming to a stand as freight trains crossing the border between the USA and Canada stop and block the Main Street and also other roads – one of which has no alternative route to wider civilisation for far longer than the permitted maximum of 10 minutes. Another factor in the blocking of level crossings is that Rainier is a train crew change point.

Police do issue citations against Canadian National, owners and operators of the railway in question. However extended stoppages have more to do with Customs and Border Protection policies and procedures, than Canadian National’s arrangements for handling rail traffic through Rainier.

Of particular concern locally is the blocking of Main Street and the detour needed when trains straddle the street for extended periods. There is a project estimated to have a cost of USD 0.5 million to create a shorter diversion route than the two-mile diversion presently available. However this does not address the other concern that there is no alternative route out of residential Vera Lynn Road, home to fifty families. Providing grade separated access has been estimated at USD 10 million, for which there is at present no funding available.

A general concern is the impact of blocked level crossings on the emergency services and how the extended journey times impact on those for which the ambulance and or fire service has been called.

Also of concern is the escalating number of train horn soundings, associated with what are now 22 trains every day, running around the clock.