Network Rail fined £500,000 for safety risks at level crossing
- Credit: Archant © 2010
Network Rail has been fined £500,000 for ignoring safety risks for a decade at an East Anglian level crossing where a ten-year-old boy suffered serious injuries in a collision between a train and a car.
James How was a passenger in his grandfather Richard Wright's car when it was hit by a train travelling at 55mph at an unmanned level crossing known as Wright's Crossing on a private road between Beccles station and Oulton Broads South station on July 3 2010, a court heard.
The car was spun round by the collision and the schoolboy, who was on his way to count cattle on nearby marshes with his grandad, was thrown out of the window on to the track and suffered serious head injuries which left him on a life support machine for a week.
Following the accident his parents, Matt and Petra How, were told he had a 5pc chance of survival and he had been left with life changing injuries, Ipswich Crown Court was told.
Mr Wright was badly bruised in the incident.
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Network Rail (NR) admitted a breach of health and safety law and in addition to being fined £500.000 it was ordered to pay costs of £23,421.
Sentencing the company Judge John Holt said it was 'remarkable' that no one had been killed on the crossing and accused Network Rail of ignoring 'obvious risks' that could have been easily reduced. He said in his opinion the basic cause of the collision was the absence of a telephone at the crossing which would have enabled Mr Wright to find out if a train was on its way.
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He said that a report ten years ago had flagged up that the crossing, which was used by 19 trains a day, was unsafe but not enough had been done to rectify the situation.
He also criticised Network Rail for taking a week after the collision to introduce an emergency speed restriction for trains on that piece of track from 55mph to 20mph and said it sounded like a case of 'bureaucracy getting in the way of safety'.
He was also scathing about a computer system used by the company since 2006 which had failed to correctly assess the risk at the crossing after the wrong distances at which trains could be seen by crossing users was entered.
Judge Holt said he had read a statement from James How's mother in which she described the devastating impact the accident had on his life.
The court heard that an investigation by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) found the accident was caused by poor visibility of trains when approaching the crossing from the south side and that Network Rail failed to act on information obtained from its own employees over a ten-year period which highlighted that users of the crossingwere exposed to an increased risk of being struck by a train.
Oliver Campbell, for Network Rail, told the court that the company took its responsibility towards safety, and in particular safety at level crossings, seriously.
He said Network Rail recognised it was guilty of serious failings in relation to the collision at Wright's Crossing and regretted the serious injuries suffered by James How.