Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Elsenham tragedy could lead to level crossing closures

The Times today (Weds, 11 May) reports that David Higgins, the recently installed chief executive of Network Rail, has ordered measures designed to cut deaths at mainland Britain's 6,452 level crossings. 
   In an article written by transport correspondent Philip Pank, supported by a commentary by Chris Bazlinton and by an editorial, The Times reports that the deaths of teenagers Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson at Elsenham level crossing in 2005 could lead to the closure of hundreds of level crossings.
   Higgins has promised full disclosure to the Office of Rail Regulation of all Network Rail documents that preceded the Elsenham tragedy. The families of Olivia and Charlotte discovered safety assessment documents, including one written as early as 2001, that stated the risk of disaster at Elsenham was real. 
   Chris Bazlinton, Olivia's father, highlights these series of warnings and recommendations contained in documents, which if acted upon, would almost certainly have prevented the deaths. They include:

  • the 2001 expert's memo expressing the high risk of a tragedy at the crossing
  • a 2002 risk assessment calling for consideration to be giving to locking the pedestrian gates when trains passed
  • a report of a 'near miss' at the crossing one month before the tragedy in December 2005

These documents were never shown to the Essex coroner during the subsequent Chelmsford inquest nor were they shown to the regulator or to government rail investigators.

Paul Coleman, London, May 2011

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