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Is it safe? Rail crossing barrier ‘had failed 21 times’
9:00am Wednesday 23rd January 2013 in News
THE Oxfordshire level crossing where a man died after a fatal collision malfunctioned 21 times last year, the Oxford Mail can reveal.
Thomas Pizzey, 85, was killed when the car he was in was struck by a Freightliner train at the Sandy Lane crossing in Yarnton, on Wednesday, January 2.
Network Rail had previously said the barrier was in “full working order”. But when we contacted the organisation again after residents told us they had experienced numerous problems, it admitted to two faults.
Now, after repeated requests for more information, the company confirmed the bridge had stopped working 21 times in 2012 – or around once every fortnight.
Network Rail did not explain the change in its figures. MP for Oxford West and Abingdon Nicola Blackwood has called on Network Rail to be more “transparent” and said she would be contacting them.
Local resident Alaric Rose, a Kidlington North councillor on Cherwell District Council, witnessed and reported a fault in November. He said: “I’m astonished. I think they really do need to look at putting a full barrier in there now.
“Residents are concerned, people are either diverting away or getting out of their cars to have a look before crossing.”
“On Monday, November 5, at 11pm I was turned away from the crossing after waiting for five minutes with the barriers down returning to Kidlington and was waved away by a Network Rail worker saying the crossing was faulty and I should find another route.”
The company said that “cabling issues” had resulted in two call outs, on November 5 and December 7.
Last night they did not provide details of when the other 19 faults happened.
An investigation into Mr Pizzey’s death is still ongoing, and has yet to determine the cause.
But people living in the area claim the barriers have repeatedly stuck in the down position, leading to some drivers attempting to drive round them despite the risk.
Yarnton resident Wayne Tilling, 49, said: “I have contacted the signalman myself four or five times having gone down there and found the barriers stuck.”
He said he and other residents had spotted motorists driving around the barriers when it was in the ‘down position’ for long periods of time.
Ms Blackwood said: “Following the tragedy which occurred at the Sandy Lane level crossing, I would expect Network Rail to want to reassure the public as much as possible that they are urgently pursuing every single avenue to ensure the crossing is entirely safe for the local community.
“I will be contacting Network Rail on this matter and I expect them to be transparent about the events surrounding the incident.”
Network Rail has insisted the crossing is safe, despite the repeated failures.
Spokesman Sam Kelly said: “The barriers at Sandy Lane level crossing failed safe (in the down position) 21 times because of infrastructure issues such as track circuit failures or problems with the signalling equipment which have an impact on the crossing.
“Level crossings are designed to fail safe if there is a technical fault to protect people using the crossings and trains.
“To put this into context, Sandy Lane level crossing makes more than 67,700 movements every year.
“This shows the reliability of the crossing is 99.97 per cent.
“As stated previously, the crossing was working correctly before the incident earlier this month.”
A British Transport Police spokesman said the cause of the crash was still being investigated.
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