Grandfather failed to use signal phone before train collided with Jaguar at Melton crossing

The scene of the crash near Melton station. Picture: NIGE BROWN

The scene of the crash near Melton station. Picture: NIGE BROWN - Credit: Archant

A retired teacher has admitted endangering a train by failing to heed warning signs at a crossing.

Roger Morris leaving magaistrates' court in Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT

Roger Morris leaving magaistrates' court in Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Roger Morris was in a coma for three days, punctured a lung and was unable to walk for months after a train carrying 28 people collided with his Jaguar on a level crossing at Melton last October.

The 74-year-old grandfather admitted endangering the safety of the passengers and train driver by failing to use a signal phone as he crossed to access a boat yard.

The crash happened on the Bloss level crossing, in Deben Way, just after 10.30am on October 15.

Morris, an ex-teacher and furniture firm boss, of Kings Road, Bury St Edmunds, faced magistrates in Ipswich on Monday.

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Prosecutor Wayne Ablitt said he disregarded signs instructing drivers to call before crossing.

“His car struck a passenger train travelling to Melton station at a speed of 30-40mph,” he added.

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“The train driver managed to sound the horn but it was too late.

“It caused £6,000 of damage to the train, cost £3,500 for a bus replacement service and £300 in delays for Network Rail.

“He not only put his own life at risk, but that of the driver and his passengers, through negligence.”

In an interview on December 20, Morris told police he was visiting the yard for the first time in 20 years, following the relocation of his boat, and had no knowledge of having to use a phone.

Carina Clare, for Morris, said he agreed he should have paid more attention, but called the crash “an accident waiting to happen”.

“The signs were not as clear as should be expected,” she added.

“The sign said ‘stop, look and listen’, which of course he did, but failed to read the very small print instructing him to use the phone.

“It was a momentary lapse of judgement and shows close to zero criminal culpability.

“More signage has since been put up. Crossings tend to have audio and visual warnings, and are not manually controlled like this one, which must be one of the last of its kind.

“He had been driven there some years before by locals, who he never noticed use a phone.”

Magistrates read two character references from friends of Morris for more than 30 years, describing him as risk averse and thoughtful, and calling the crash as an “uncharacteristic aberration”.

The bench decided the matter was so serious it potentially crossed the custody threshold and must be dealt with by sentencing in the crown court at a later date.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “All level crossings, including this one, have signs which have clear instructions on how to use them safely.

“To further improve safety since the incident, we have attached reminder signs to the gates, which serve as an extra prompt for users to telephone the signaller before crossing.

“We have also added a further sign at the exit to remind people to close the gates.

“This incident serves as a reminder of the dangers at level crossings, and how important it is that users comply with the signs and warnings.”

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