Oct 2010 - Crossing the boundaries

01 June 2013

I MAKE no apologies for returning to the subject of level crossings – because every month reveals some new evidence of incompetence, complacency or sheer lunacy.


Last month we hit a new low. The findings of a report from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) into last September’s fatal accident at Halkirk level crossing in Caithness contained this chilling line: ‘Network Rail did not properly understand the risk at Halkirk crossing and had not taken the previous accident record into account’.


This amounts to irresponsibility verging on the criminal, and ignorance bordering on the insane. How can anyone associated with the industry fail to recognise the risks involved at level crossings, where one person a month has died for decades? What kind of managers fail to take previous safety failures into account?


Network Rail must react to this damning assessment by the RAIB. I don’t constantly demand dismissals and resignations, but we can’t tolerate managers who don’t understand risks at an unmanned crossing. The simple facts are that crossings kill and unmanned ones kill regularly.

What is there not to understand?


The deaths at Halkirk inevitably led to another sickening episode of the ugly game of ‘Pass the Parcel of Blame’. There is always some excuse dragged out. Poor eyesight of the car driver. Lack of attention by the person crossing the track. Tiredness that caused a car to veer off the road.


It is all sham. We know that level crossings kill, so if we were serious we’d begin the obvious and only solutions: building tunnels, erecting bridges and introducing in-cab technology to enable a driver to look further up the track than the eye can see. They are all available. But no one will put up the money to stop the carnage.


What I can’t understand is how others manage to remain so detached, complacent and unconcerned as the carnage continues.

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