Network Rail fined over crossing death


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The Independent Online

Network Rail was fined more than £356,000 today for a breach of health and safety that led to the death of a woman walking over a pedestrian rail crossing.

Julia Canning, 55, who was the sister-in-law of comedienne Ruby Wax, was killed at Fairfield footpath and bridle way crossing, near Little Bedwyn, Wiltshire, in 2009.

The mother-of-three from Little Bedwyn was struck by the First Great Western 17:11 service travelling on the main London to Bristol line while walking her two dogs.

One of the dogs was also killed in the incident on May 6 2009.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said Network Rail admitted it failed to act on substantial evidence that pedestrians using the crossing had insufficient sight of approaching trains and were exposed to an increased safety risk when using the crossing.

Network Rail pleaded guilty earlier to one count under the Health and Safety at Work Act and was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court following an investigation by the ORR.

ORR's Deputy Director of Railway Safety, Tom Wake, said: "Today's sentencing at Southampton Crown Court brings to a close the regulator's prosecution of Network Rail for causing the devastating and avoidable death of Mrs Julia Canning. My thoughts are with Mrs Canning's family.

"ORR's investigation found extensive evidence showing that Network Rail knew that the crossing was unsafe for pedestrians. Not acting to minimise the known risks was a serious failing on Network Rail's behalf.

"We recognise that Network Rail has now made a number of improvements at this crossing, making it safer for pedestrians.

"Safety is the regulator's top priority, and we continue to push Network Rail and the industry to deliver safety improvements at all level crossings."

Judge Peter Ralls QC fined Network Rail £356,250 and also ordered it to pay £19,485 in costs.

The company had admitted the offence in January this year at Salisbury Crown Court.