Poor training led to near miss between train and car on level crossing, report finds

A user-operated crossing at Worlingham near Beccles Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

A user-operated crossing at Worlingham near Beccles Picture: GOOGLE MAPS - Credit: Archant

A train, car and trailer would have collided in Suffolk had a quick-thinking driver not applied the emergency brake, a report has found.

The 1.07pm Greater Anglia service from Lowestoft to Ipswich was travelling along the line towards Beccles when the driver applied the emergency brake after spotting the car – which was towing a trailer – on the level crossing in Worlingham.

The train was travelling at 55mph when the driver spotted the car, no more than 350 metres away.

Another vehicle about to cross reversed away from the railway after seeing the train.

Drivers crossing the railway at Worlingham - a user working crossing, or UWC - are required to call the nearby Saxmundham signal box to be granted permission to cross.

A signaller at Saxmundham had given permission for the vehicles to cross the railway, understanding it would take less than two minutes for them to get across. The call ended 77 seconds before the train would have reached the crossing, should its driver not have applied the emergency brake.

Just one month before the near miss, Network Rail introduced additional axle counters which would help determine train locations more precisely in a bid to provide signallers with “more confidence” when instructing drivers.

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An investigation by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) later found the signaller had not been trained in the use of additional information provided on their display. The report says “had he been trained and assessed as competent” he may not have given permission for the two vehicles to cross.

The improvements came after the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) issued Network Rail with two improvement notices in 2017 and 2018 after risk assessments found signallers had “no means of consistently and reliably determining train movements in the area of a UWC” at some boxes in the Anglia route.

Ian Bradler, Network Rail director of route health safety quality and environment, said: “We are committed to make level crossings as safe as possible for everyone and we take incidents like this very seriously.

“We have a plan in place to upgrade level crossings in this area to make them safer. We have also put measures in place to reduce the risk of signaller errors and briefed staff accordingly.” Greater Anglia declined to comment.

No-one suffered any injuries as a result of the incident.

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