Further level crossing death adds urgency to union safety claim

24 October 2005

‘Last week we saw a further avoidable death at an unmanned level crossing,’ says ASLEF General Secretary Keith Norman. ‘How many more fatal accidents do we need before we see any action from government or Network Rail?’

Keith was speaking about the death last Wednesday of David Muffett, a farmer who was killed when his tractor was hit by a train at Black Horse Drove, between Downham Market and Littleport in Norfolk on Wednesday.

The union insists that the solution is to provide train drivers with the (available) technology which enables them to see ahead up the line using laser beams could prevent 99 per cent of level crossing crashes.
The local press backed the union’s position, saying, ‘If this had been in place it would almost certainly have allowed the driver of the train which crashed into the tractor to have seen it in time to brake. But the system, which has been in use in the Far East for eight years, has so far not been introduced on any of Britain"s rail network.’

Safety concerns have grown in the region after a string of near misses, including a similar incident in August when a tractor was hit near a place called March.
After the death of Mr Muffett, South-West Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser called for an urgent review of rail safety saying, ‘There is clearly a question over safety at unmanned level-crossings that needs to be looked at quickly.”

Keith Norman has written to the MP outlining the proposals the union has made for the employment of a track-to-train surveillance system that gives the driver real-time video information about possible obstructions on the track ahead.

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