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Driver suffered “life-affecting” injuries after train collision

Created on 27/04/2021 @ 10:43


A driver that suffered “life-affecting” injuries after being hit by a train close to Welshpool last year may not have known they needed to call the signaller before crossing, an investigation has concluded.

And now the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is renewing its recommendations that signs need updating to be clearer.

The incident happened around 1.44pm on June 22 when a Transport for Wales (TfW) train struck a van which had stopped on the tracks at Smiths Lower Cefn.

The report found that when the collision occurred, the van driver was in the area of the vehicle’s open offside door. 

“The collision caused the van to spin around, projecting the van driver into an adjacent field,” it explained. “The van driver suffered serious, life-affecting injuries because of the collision.”

An investigation, based on evidence obtained at the scene and the train’s forward-facing CCTV, led the RAIB to “consider that it was possible” that the far side gate of the crossing began to swing back as the van crossed, causing the driver to stop and attempt to get out of the van “while it was still foul of the line”.

RAIB also said that safety changes were first recommended following an accident at the same location 12 years previously in 2008, when it said that signs at user-operated level crossings needed to be made clearer.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it agreed signs "needs updating".

User-worked crossings are found where railways cross a right of way, such as a road on private land, a footpath or a bridleway.

Any gates or barriers often need to be operated manually, with some crossings requiring users to telephone a signaller to check it is safe to cross.

However, the RAIB found that in the crash last year at the Smiths Lower Cefn crossing, the need to call the signaller could have been overlooked as it was “not present” in a list of instructions on the sign at the crossing.

The RAIB said it has contacted Network Rail, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), and the DfT "to alert them to this event and the need for action to implement previously made recommendations”.

It said: “RAIB remain concerned that accidents and incidents will continue to occur unless substantive action is taken.”

A spokesman for the DfT told the BBC: “We welcome the RAIB report on Smiths Lower Cefn, and wholeheartedly agree that signage at private crossings needs updating. The department is currently producing a consultation on updating these, which we aim to publish later this year.”

Network Rail said safety was its "priority".

Christine Booth, its level crossings risk advisor, told the BBC: “We are installing red and green lights to some of the highest risk private crossings and public footpath crossings across Wales to make them safer.

"This includes at Smith crossing in Powys and follows safety improvements already made at crossings such as Ty Gwyn and Pen Uchaf on the north Wales coast.”

The ORR, which is responsible for the safety regulation of Britain's railways, said: “We've been working with Network Rail and the Department for Transport to ensure recommendations are duly considered and acted upon.

"We are also working with industry to introduce new guidance for managing level crossing safety.

"This will help improve risk assessments at level crossings and will apply to all crossings including user worked crossings."


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