Rail chiefs refuse to review crossings safety

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Rail chiefs were accused of "astonishing arrogance" yesterday after refusing to undertake a safety review of level crossings in the wake of the Ufton Nervet disaster.

Rail chiefs were accused of "astonishing arrogance" yesterday after refusing to undertake a safety review of level crossings in the wake of the Ufton Nervet disaster.

Despite assurances by the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, that "lessons would be learnt", Network Rail told The Independent that its policies would not be changed and the crossing at the site of the accident would not be upgraded.

The Health and Safety Executive is expected to announce today that there was no failure of any system for which rail management is responsible. A spokesman for Network Rail said that it would be calling for an investigation by the independent Rail Safety and Standards Board to find out what happened in Saturday's accident and decide what lessons could be learnt.

The state-backed rail infrastructure organisation has come under intense pressure to investigate the safety of "half barrier" crossings like the one at the Berkshire village which is triggered automatically by an oncoming train and is not monitored by railway staff. It is argued that the Paddington to Plymouth express would not have hit the car at Ufton Nervet if CCTV had been in operation, enabling signallers to see the obstruction on the line.

A spokesman for Network Rail, whose chief executive is John Armitt, said there was no point in looking afresh at the system, which dictated that crossings were only under surveillance where trains travelled at more than 110mph.

Peter Rayner, a former British Rail manager and adviser to the Commons Select Committee on Transport, said Network Rail's attitude was "astonishingly arrogant". He said: "We are not asking them to panic and spend hundreds of millions of pounds on crossings, but in the wake of the disaster they should engage in a fresh risk assessment of such crossings on high-speed lines on the Trans-European Network."

The Network Rail spokesman said crossings were reviewed at least every three years and the three-month-long routine investigation into the barrier at Ufton Nervet was completed in August. Traffic volumes were so low that there was no need to upgrade it.

Comments