December 12 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
A north Suffolk grandfather has told a parliamentary inquiry of his efforts to get a telephone installed at a remote level crossing before a train crash which seriously hurt his grandson.
Addressing the Transport Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament, Richard Wright of Barnby, near Beccles, explained how he had repeatedly tried to get Network Rail to fit communication lines at a private crossing on his land known as Wright’s Crossing, knowing it was “an accident waiting to happen”.
He said a phone was finally installed, but not until four months after his grandson, James How, suffered life changing injuries when he was a passenger in Mr Wright’s car, which was hit at 55mph by a train in July 2010. Network Rail was fined £500,000 after admitting a breach of health and safety laws during a court hearing in June.
Mr Wright represented one of three families during Monday’s inquiry who have either lost loved ones or have a relative who was seriously injured on a level crossing.
He told the committee: “I suppose I represent private crossings. We’ve got a private crossing which no one else other than people we allow to cross can go over. I’ve known it for 55 years and I know other people who have known it for longer, and they’ve always said that it’s been an accident waiting to happen.”
Mr Wright described how he had contacted Network Rail several times to ask for a telephone after two near misses prior to his accident.
“I rang them up and said ‘it’s time we had phones... they sent someone out to decide whether we really needed telephones or not.
“He went out and stood in the middle of the track, the middle of our crossing with his stopwatch. When the train driver hooted he pressed the stopwatch, walked back off the track, pressed it again as the train went past and apparently because we were under the time that was needed for a telephone we didn’t get them.
“The annoying thing was he checked it coming from Oulton Broad. If he had done it with the train coming from Beccles we only see that 20 to 25 seconds from coming round the corner to our crossing.”
Mr Wright said he felt the accident was his fault, but added that a few days afterwards, speed restriction signs were imposed, followed by a telephone installation.
Mr Wright’s car was spun round by the collision between Beccles station and Oulton Broad South station, and James, who has now recovered, was thrown out of the window on to the track. He was left on a life support machine for a week.
During the court hearing Judge John Holt said a report 10 years ago had flagged up that the crossing, which was used by 19 trains a day, was unsafe.
Mr Wright joined Chris Bazlinton and Tina Hughes at the hearing, the parents of Olivia Bazlinton 14, who died alongside Charlotte Thompson 13, when they were hit by a train in 2005 as they crossed the tracks at Elsenham in Essex.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “Nothing we can say or do will lessen the pain felt by the families of those killed or injured at level crossings, but we have promised them that we are committed to making our railway as safe as possible and that remains our focus.”