Shocking level crossing near-miss caused by leaves on line

CCTV footage from the cab of a Greater Anglia train shows the near-miss at Thorpe End level crossing

CCTV footage from the cab of a Greater Anglia train shows the near-miss at Thorpe End level crossing in November. Pictures: Greater Anglia/Archant - Credit: Greater Anglia/Archant

A near miss which saw a Greater Anglia train come within a quarter of a second of ploughing into a car was caused by leaves on the line, an investigation has found.

On November 24 last year, a train came within a whisker of crashing into two cars as they crossed a level crossing at Thorpe End, near Norwich, after the barrier opened before the new 755 locomotive had passed.

The nail-biting moment prompted a probe by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) - though neither Greater Anglia nor Network Rail alerted the body to it initially. 

CCTV footage from the cab of a Greater Anglia train shows the near-miss at Thorpe End level crossing

CCTV footage from the cab of a Greater Anglia train shows the near-miss at Thorpe End level crossing in November. Image: Greater Anglia - Credit: Greater Anglia

The results of the investigation have now been published, with a report revealing the incident was caused by contamination on the line and the automated level crossing control miscalculating the position of the train.

The report said that contamination on the rail lines, including leaves, had caused the level crossing equipment to misinterpret the train's position and re-open the barrier too soon.


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The report adds that at the time work to remove contamination from the rails was only carried out on weekdays, meaning at the time of the incident it had been more than 48 hours since this last happened.

In a joint statement, Ellie Burrows from Network Rail and Jamie Burles from Greater Anglia said: "Since the incident at Norwich Road level crossing, we have worked tirelessly to understand how and why it occurred and how we can make the railway safer.

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"The RAIB findings of contaminated tracks and their impact is consistent with our own detailed investigations, which have held us understand how this incident occurred and led us to a series of actions in advance of any recommendations.

Greater Anglia managing director, Jamie Burles, with a new Stadler bimode train at Lowestoft earlier

Greater Anglia managing director, Jamie Burles, with a new Stadler bimode train at Lowestoft earlier this year. Picture: Greater Anglia - Credit: Archant

"These actions include installing new track circuit treadles on the approach to crossings that provide extra safety protection and enabled us to remove speed restrictions."

The statement adds that trees next to 26.5km of tracks were being cut back to reduce leaf-fall on the lines and that this year the lines had been cleaned more frequently.

The statement adds: "Any incident such as this is taken extremely seriously and we understand the severe disruption and frustration this caused many of our passengers last autumn.

"We are confident the steps we have taken and are continuing to take will prevent a further similar incident."

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