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Roudham train crash: Investigation underway, concerns over level crossing safety

PUBLISHED: 07:33 11 April 2016 | UPDATED: 20:44 11 April 2016

The tractor which was hit by the train at the level crossing. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

The tractor which was hit by the train at the level crossing. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

ARCHANT NORFOLK

A major investigation is today under way into how a train and tractor crashed on an unmanned level crossing at Roudham. Services have returned to normal.

Emergency and investigation teams at Roudham after a train hit a tractor on a level crossing and the passengers were led to safety down the tracks.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYEmergency and investigation teams at Roudham after a train hit a tractor on a level crossing and the passengers were led to safety down the tracks. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Seven people were injured, one person, the tractor driver, was seriously hurt. The accident happened as the Abellio Greater Anliga train, carrying 135 people passed the crossing near Thetford.

More than 50 firefighters, four ambulances, the East Anglian air ambulance, Norfolk Police and British Transport police all attended.

A statement on Abellio Greater Anglia’s website this morning said the line had been reopened, with the first train passing through the area being the 5.50am Norwich to Liverpool Lime Street service operated by East Midlands Trains.

Emergency and investigation teams at Roudham after a train hit a tractor on a level crossing and the passengers were led to safety down the tracks.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYEmergency and investigation teams at Roudham after a train hit a tractor on a level crossing and the passengers were led to safety down the tracks. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

The latest crash highlights concerns for safety of level crossings.

There are around 6,000 level crossings in the country and some have been closed already in line with Network Rail’s national policy to close crossings deemed too risky to use.

It was unable to comment specifically on yesterday’s incident because of the ongoing investigation, but one regular traveller said level crossings were the biggest cause of railway accidents.

A carriage showing damage from the train crash at Roudham. Photo: Alex Youngs/TwitterA carriage showing damage from the train crash at Roudham. Photo: Alex Youngs/Twitter

John Saunders, secretary of the Peterborough Ely Norwich Rail Users, said: “My sympathies go to those who have been affected by the crash but I just want to reassure everyone that our country’s railways are very safe.

“In fact, the safety experts claim that they are among the safest in Europe.

“But, when you look at the statistics, the level crossings are the biggest cause of railway accidents today.”

Emergency and investigation teams at Roudham after a train hit a tractor on a level crossing and the passengers were led to safety down the tracks.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYEmergency and investigation teams at Roudham after a train hit a tractor on a level crossing and the passengers were led to safety down the tracks. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

He added: “Progress is being made to make them safer and go as far as closing those which are considered to be at the highest risk. I know Network Rail is also rolling out the latest technologies including red light safety cameras.”

Meanwhile, South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said she planned to speak to Network Rail to understand the cause of the crash as well as the next steps to improve safety on the line.

She said: “I am campaigning for more investment in this vital line from Norwich to Cambridge which has growing passenger numbers. It must be safe for passengers and road users, frequent and reliable.”

Yesterday’s crash also fuels the safety concerns that have already been raised about the Norwich in 90 proposals which aim to bring a 90-minute rail service between London and Norwich.

Changes may be needed at many level crossings along the route to accommodate the service.

But PC Tony Orton from the British Transport Police did say officers were rarely called to incidents at unmanned crossings.

He said: “At unmanned crossings, or user work crossings as they’re also known, it is up to the driver of the vehicle to contact the signaller before going through. It’s dependent on them complying with the instructions that are on the crossings.”

To remind farmers about the dangers posed by level crossings at harvest time, Network Rail launched a campaign with the National Farmers Union last year to reinforce the important safety messages.

Its campaign materials said that during the last five years, there were more than 100 near-miss incidents at rail crossings on farmland across the country, including 24 in the East of England.

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