Thursday, June 5, 2014
A train driver left “devastated” at being investigated for a speeding breach took his own life at a west Suffolk level crossing, an inquest has heard.
Neil Saunders, of Bury St Edmunds, had a previously unblemished record in 15 years as a train driver until the brief lack of concentration resulted in the speeding incident, the inquest was told.
The 44-year-old was reportedly left with “concerns and anxieties” after the incident, and took his life at the Cattishall level crossing in Great Barton in February – four months after his train passed through a stop signal.
He was due to get back in control of a train for a new job on the night of the tragedy.
Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean told the hearing in Bury that Mr Saunders was left “devastated” by the investigation, which led to him leaving his job.
Dr Dean added: “He lived for the job and took great pride in being a very good train driver.
“Prior to this he had an unblemished record of service and clean sickness record. It does appear the incident had undermined his confidence to a certain extent.
“Although people around him loved him and cared for him, he clearly had worries about the previous incident, concerns and anxieties, but I don’t think anybody could have predicted the action he took that night.”
The signal passed at danger (SPAD) incident happened in November, while Mr Saunders was working for Direct Rail Services.
An investigation found he had exceeded the speed limit on part of the track, which was attributed to a brief lack of concentration due to some concerns he had at the time.
The 44-year-old of Plovers Way, near Nowton Park, found new employment with Freightliner Heavy Haul, and was reportedly left feeling “upbeat” after an initial assessment.
However, on February 24 – a week after the assessment – he was due to meet his new team leader in Peterborough for a night shift, but instead headed to the level crossing off Mount Road.
He was hit by a passenger train travelling from Ipswich to Cambridge at around 8pm, the inquest heard.
The driver of the train reported seeing Mr Saunders standing in the “four foot” – the space between the two tracks – facing away from the oncoming train.
The driver applied the emergency brakes, but did not have time to sound the horn.
Mr Saunders had dinner with his family before he left that night and reportedly there was “nothing untoward”, but he had discussed his new job with his wife Kate during the day.
Dr Dean said: “There was some discussion during the day about whether he was worried about going to work, and one gets the sense of some concern, but she gave him reassurance and he said ‘he wished he had her optimism’.”