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Stop these needless level crossing tragedies says TSSA

15 May 2013

Union calls for Transport Committee inquiry into repeated failures

Rail watchdogs were warned 14 months before a 13-year-old girl was killed on an unsafe level crossing in Nottingham that such a tragedy would happen "sooner rather than later", the TSSA revealed today.

But despite the warnings, both the ORR and Network Rail failed to make the safety improvements that may have saved the life of schoolgirl Lindsey Inger, said union general secretary Manuel Cortes.

He disclosed details of warning documents at his union's annual conference in Glasgow when he called on the Commons Transport Select Committee to mount an inquiry into NR's "repeated" failures over level crossing safety in the past decade.

He accused the state funded company of putting "the bottom line in front of the safety line" in too many cases.

"Laurence Hoggart lost his wife and eight year old grandson Mikey on the Nottingham footpath crossing in 2008 and both NR and ORR did nothing about that dangerous crossing despite calls from local people describing it as a death trap.

"Four years later Lindsey was also killed on that crossing despite, as we now know, safety experts warning 14 months earlier that just such a tragedy would happen.

"Now, much too late, the crossing has finally been closed after three people have needlessly died and two families torn apart. We need answers and we want them in front of a parliamentary committee."

He described NR's current level crossing closure programme of one in eight of its 6,500 crossings as "too slow, too little and too late".

Last month, NR were fined £450,000 at Birmingham Crown Court over the death of Jane Harding, 52, on a level crossing in Herefordshire in 2010. It emerged during the trial that NR rejected installing an automatic locking barrier at the junction on cost grounds in 2009.

Last year, NR were fined £1 million at Chelmsford Crown Court over the deaths of two school girls at Elsenham in Essex in 2005. Two safety reports calling for a bridge to be built over the level crossing, which would have saved the girls lives, were never implemented.

The union general secretary said he would be writing to Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Select Committee, urging her to mount an inquiry into NR's level crossing safety policy "as soon as possible".

"We want the families of the victims of this cost driven policy to be heard. We don't just want the bureaucrats from the DfT, the ORR and NR to be seen trying to defend the indefensible.

"By hearing from the people who now live day by day with the consequences of these failures, we believe there is a real chance that a much better safety regime will emerge."

He descrbed NR's current level crossing closure programme of one in eight of its 6,500 crossings as "too slow, too little and and too late".

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