Another motorist killed in plunge down railway embankment

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The Independent Online

A motorist was killed when his car smashed through a brick wall and plunged down a railway embankment, three days after a van driver died in similar circumstances in the same county.

Kevin Bailey, 42, crashed through a wooden fence and brick bridge parapet alongside a railway in Lincolnshire and plunged towards the track in his Vauxhall Cavalier on Sunday night. He was killed instantly.

Mr Bailey appears to have lost control on a left-hand bend, on the main Gainsborough to Scunthorpe trunk road, the A159, before hitting the Wharton Hall bridge near the village of Blyton. Heavy vegetation on the embankment arrested the car's fall 30 yards from the railway track. Mr Bailey's 16-year-old son, who was a passenger, escaped without injury.

Only three days earlier, a Lincolnshire van driver was killed when he careered down an embankment at Nocton and was hit by an oncoming train as he dialled 999.

The latest incident appears to lend support to the findings of a study by the Newcastle University civil engineer Professor John Knapton, who is concerned about the lack of protection against the risk of cars leaving roads near bridges. He says many roadside walls and fences were built to deter trespassers and not to withstand the force of vehicles. He estimates that erecting steel barriers along roads would cost £10m.

Minor roads, such as the dead-end track that was the scene of the Nocton crash, account for 80 per cent of such incidents, although Sunday night's fatality demonstrates that protection on trunk roads can also be inadequate.

Lincolnshire Police Inspector Dick Holmes said Mr Bailey "finished up hitting a fence and a bridge and it was fortunate [he] didn't end up on the railway track. But the sad outcome of it is that somebody lost a life and we will be looking into it to make sure it doesn't happen again, at least in that location."

The Health and Safety Commission proposed in its report last week on the Selby disaster that sites at high risk of such incidents should be assessed, although the Highways Agency, which is responsible for trunk roads such as the one at Blyton, said there were "no serious shortcomings" in the standard of barriers.

The two Lincolnshire crashes follow the Selby rail disaster caused by a third Lincolnshire motorist, Gary Hart, from Louth, 15 miles north-east of Lincoln. He fell asleep at the wheel and plunged on to the east coast main line, causing the crash in which 10 people died on 28 February last year.

A year to the day after that tragedy, John Fletcher, 47, died in the Nocton crash.

Including the two incidents in the past five days, 44 vehicles have crashed through roadside fences towards railways since the Selby disaster, with 28 landing on tracks.

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