A damning report slamming Network Rail’s treatment of families who lost loved ones in level crossing tragedies has been welcomed by leading politicians.
Following the death of Emma Lifsey, four, of Haxey, at the Beech Hill level crossing at Misson Springs near Finningley in 2012 Bassetlaw MP John Mann wrote to Louise Ellman, Chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, calling for an inquiry because of the company’s “callous disregard” of families.
He said: “I called for a parliamentary inquiry because it was clear that hundreds of crossings throughout the country were unsafe, and Network Rail was failing to deal with the problem.
“Network Rail must honour its obligation to seriously improve rail crossings, and the Office of Rail Regulation must heed the committee’s call for it to “improve its grip” on overseeing Network Rail’s work.”
A Rail Accident Investigation Branch report, which was published in September 2013, stated that the lights on the crossing on which Emma died were “of an obsolete design that also did not meet the specification.”
Isle MP Andrew Percy said: “I welcome the report and the strength of the recommendations.
“Clearly, level crossings are a dangerous place and every effort should be made to prioritise improvements, especially those which are older or are only half barriers.
“Every loss of life at a level crossing is a tragedy and Network Rail bosses should do everything possible to embark upon a rapid improvement plan following this report.”
Network Rail’s chief executive Mark Carne made an apology on behalf of the company for its past failings: “I wish to extend a full and unreserved apology on behalf of Network Rail to all those whose lives have been touched by a failing, however large or small, made by this company.
“Nothing we can say or do will lessen the pain felt by the families of those killed or injured at a level crossing. Today Network Rail is a very different company to the one which existed at the time of these tragic accidents.
“As a result of this transformation, level crossings in Great Britain are amongst the safest in Europe, but there is still much that we can, and will, do and the committee’s recommendations will help us in that endeavour.”
Since 2010 Network Rail has reduced the risk at levels crossings by a quarter by investing some £130 million in level crossing safety improvements.
Included in these improvements are: closing almost 800 crossings; appointing over 100 new Network Rail level crossing managers who each with personal responsibility for around 65 crossings; the building of 38 footbridges to replace crossings; installing 57 new spoken warnings to announce “another train is coming”.
Mr Carne continued: “This progress is welcome, but we will never be complacent when it comes to public safety.
“As I start my term as chief executive I have made improving public, passenger and workforce safety absolutely integral to everything Network Rail does.”