Student banned for level crossing crash

A STUDENT who drove a sports car through a shed and entered the path of a train has been banned from driving for 18 months and fined £2,000. A jury yesterdayreturned a unanimous guilty verdict on a dangerous driving charge against Wassim Mughal 23, of London Road, Six Mile Bottom near Newmarket.

A STUDENT who drove a sports car through a shed and entered the path of a train has been banned from driving for 18 months and fined £2,000.

A jury yesterdayreturned a unanimous guilty verdict on a dangerous driving charge against Wassim Mughal 23, of London Road, Six Mile Bottom, near Newmarket.

Mughal failed to stop in a Toyota MR2 at a level crossing and caused £23,000 damage to an Anglia Railways train carrying 51 passengers and crew. He had denied the charge.

Mughal must re-take his driving test at the end of the ban period before he is allowed back on the roads. In addition to the fine he was also ordered to pay £1,500 towards prosecution costs and given four months to pay.

Mughal was on his way back to the home he shares with his parents on December 7, 2002 when he approached the level crossing in the village.

He saw the warning lights but realised it was too late and braked but the breaks skidded and he lost control of the car. He careered through a corrugated iron shed, which was dragged onto the track where the car stalled the court heard.

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After Mughal scrambled from the car it was hit by the 16.16 train from Cambridge to Ipswich and burst into flames as it was dragged along the track. The train was derailed but continued on its path for another 240 yards before coming to rest. No one on the train was seriously injured but train driver Anthony Harris hurt his shoulder and ankle and was off work for five weeks.

Judge Gareth Hawkesworth, sitting at Cambridge Crown Court, told Mughal: “What I am quite sure of was that you were driving too fast, you left it until the last minute in your reaction to the red warning light, hoping you would get through before the barrier went down.”

The court was told the Mughal, an IT worker who was a student at Liverpool University at the time of the incident, had previously been banned from driving for speeding, a punishment which is only used when the driver is travelling at more then 30 mph over the speed limit. His car, which bore a private number plate spelling out part of his name, was destroyed in the crash and subsequent fire.

After the verdict a spokesman for East Anglia Rail operators One, who superseded Anglia Railways, said: “We feel it was the right result, the lives of our crew and passenger could have been in serious danger because of this reckless act and it just underlines how important it is for people to pay proper notice to level crossing lights.”

In a character reference from the former Military Attaché to the Pakistani High Commission in London, Mughal was described as a team player and a natural leader.

Mughal said he was not speeding and had braked too hard and claimed his anti-lock braking system may have been faulty.

Judge Hawkesworth said a prison sentence was an option for a charge of dangerous driving but he felt such a punishment would have been inappropriate owing to the nature of the offence and Mughal's previous good character.

Mughal declined to comment after the case.

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