Call for crossings to be closed after man dies in collision with King’s Lynn to London train at Ten Mile Bank, near Downham Market
© Archant Norfolk 2012
An investigation was under way last night after a man died when a train was in collision with a car on a remote level crossing in the Fens.
Call to close level crossings with a history of crashes in the Fens
Yesterday’s crash is the latest in a string of collisions to have occurred on crossings in the Fens between King’s Lynn and Ely.
Some have automatic barriers. But others, like the crossing where yesterday’s fatal collision occurred, have manually-operated gates and depend on flashing lights to warn drivers of an approaching train, which could be travelling at 70mph or more on open stretches of the line.
Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association union, said: “Level crossing fatalities are the biggest killer on our rail network. Road and rail just do not mix in a fast-moving transport system with trains moving at up to 90mph.
“The sooner Network Rail starts to close these potential dangerous crossings, the better it will be for both rail passengers and road users.”
The crash happened after the London-bound First Capital Connect service from King’s Lynn collided with a silver Kia Sportage, on a farm crossing without barriers between Ten Mile Bank and Welney, at around 1.15pm.
Its warning lights were still flashing yesterday afternoon, along with those on a nearby road crossing, as crash investigators worked to piece together how the 4x4 had ended up in the path of the train.
Last night Manuel Cortes, leader of rail union the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said: “The sooner Network Rail starts to close these potential dangerous crossings, the better it will be for both rail passengers and road users.”
Police said the driver was pronounced dead at the scene, while all 65 people on board the 1.56pm service from Lynn to King’s Cross escaped unhurt. Passengers were taken off the train to continue their journey by coaches at around 4pm.
Many were visibly shaken as they were led away up the line towards the buses, before being driven from the crash scene.
What remained of the car was crumpled beneath the front carriage of the train. The dead man’s name was not being released last night, but officers said his family had been informed.
A spokesman for Magpas Helimedix, which flew doctors to the crash scene by helicopter from its base near Huntingdon, said: “The Magpas doctor pronounced the death of a male driver of the car on the scene, our thoughts are with his family and his friends at this time.
“The Helimedix team also checked the welfare of the passengers on the train and found no one to be injured.”
The car was pushed 500m down the line by the train, which was believed to have been travelling at 70mph when the impact occurred on a straight section of single track.
All four coaches remained on the rails, as they came to a halt beyond a second crossing where the line crosses the Ten Mile Bank to Welney road.
A British Transport Police (BTP) spokesman said: “BTP officers were called to Pleasant level crossing, near Downham Market, following a report of a car being struck by a train.
“Norfolk and Cambridgeshire officers also attended the incident, which was reported to BTP at 1.15pm, along with local fire and ambulance services. The driver of the vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Police are currently working to establish the full circumstances including how the car came to be on the tracks.”
Train passenger Ashley Tuttle, who was travelling from King’s Lynn to Cambridge on a shopping trip with her boyfriend Alex Nevozajs, said: “Suddenly we felt this massive bang and there was loads of smoke and debris flying past the window.”
Student Miss Tuttle, 17, said windows on the train were scratched by flying debris, before it came to a halt.
“It was quite scary,” she said. “There was quite a lot of smoke and they didn’t really tell us what was going on for about 10 minutes.”
Joshua Palmer, who lives next to the crossing where the crash happened, told reporters he was at home listening to music when he heard a loud crash. He said he saw a cloud of smoke as he looked outside.
Insp Bob Munn, heading the British Transport Police investigation at the scene, said there were no suspicious circumstances and the crash was being treated as an accident.
Parts of the car and pieces of ballast were strewn along the line, which runs through open farmland as it approaches Littleport.
Last night Station Road, between Ten Mile Bank and Welney, remained closed in both directions near the Cross Drove junction.
Trains between Downham and Ely were replaced with shuttle buses, while services to and from London started and terminated at Ely. Services are expected to return to normal later today.