Essex: New inquiry call over rail crossing deaths of teens
PUBLISHED: 09:39 14 February 2011
THE discovery of new evidence about the killing of two girls at an Essex railway crossing has prompted calls for a fresh inquiry.
The families of Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson, killed at Elsenham station in December, 2005, have demanded a review after a new document came to light.
A risk assessment report, written three years before their deaths, has been uncovered which recommended the crossing’s gates should be locked when trains approach. They did not lock automatically when Olivia, 14, and Charlotte, 13, were hit by a train in December, 2005.
Olivia’s father Chris Bazlinton, 62, said the fact that the document was not released by Network Rail for the inquest amounted to a “cover-up”. He said it would have affected the accidental death verdict and the outcome of a subsequent civil case.
He said: “I believe this goes very close to the top. I believe it’s a cover-up, absolutely.
“I want to know who decided not to send the document. We just need an inquiry.”
He was been backed by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), which said it had only just received a copy of the report, but would ask its inspectors to review it.
Ian Prosser, director of rail safety at ORR, said: “We were extremely disappointed to learn of the existence of a vital document not previously disclosed to our investigation into the tragic fatalities at Elsenham, but grateful to the parents for sharing this new information with us.
“I am very concerned about companies not providing important information to a safety investigation. I have previously highlighted concerns about the safety culture that existed at Network Rail.”
The crucial paragraph in the risk assessment report reads: “Consideration should be given to the practicality of incorporating the Wicket Gates into the inter-locking of Elsenham crossing controls and effectively lock them closed when trains are approaching.”
Network Rail said it gave the report to the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), who published its report in May, 2006. A spokesman said the company’s legal team also gave it to a firm of solicitors they believed had been hired by the Thompson family, as part of a bundle of documents.
Network Rail, in a statement, added: “The deaths of Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson over five years ago, were a tragedy. It was also an accident, as the coroner’s verdict clearly stated.
“Today, the thoughts of Network Rail remain with the girls’ families and friends. Every accidental death at a level crossing is tragic. Fortunately they are rare and Britain has a safety record that stands up well to international comparisons.”
“A crucial component of encouraging the safe and correct use of level crossings is education.
“Just this week Network Rail unveiled more measures to deter incidents at level crossings. Our awareness campaign began over six years ago and indeed it was commended by the coroner at Olivia and Charlotte’s inquest.