At around 15:03 hrs on 23 October 2017, train reporting number 1L32, the 14:20 hrs Southeastern service from Ramsgate to London St Pancras, travelling at about 85 mph (137 km/h), struck a delivery van on Frognal Farm user worked level crossing, between Teynham and Sittingbourne stations. The train did not derail, and none of the approximately 80 passengers and crew on board were hurt. The van was badly damaged, and its driver was taken to hospital with head and upper body injuries.
Frognal Farm level crossing is on a private road giving access to a small number of houses and a farm. Until March 2017, users had to open the gates themselves, having first telephoned the Network Rail signaller to confirm that it was safe to cross the line. In March 2017, Network Rail installed power operated gate opening (POGO) equipment at this crossing. Users should still telephone for permission to cross, but having done so they are now able to press a button to open the gates, without having to cross the line on foot.
On this occasion there is no evidence that the driver of the delivery van made a telephone call to the signaller. However, the signage provided at the crossing was not, in the RAIB’s view, clear.
In light of this accident RAIB has issued the following urgent safety advice to Network Rail:
‘Network Rail should urgently review the design and wording of the warning/instruction signs at user worked crossings with POGO equipment, to ensure that the instructions are clear, and alert users to the nature and severity of the risks’.
Our investigation into the accident will determine the sequence of events. It will also include consideration of:
- The way in which level crossings have been upgraded with POGO equipment, including the risk assessment and design process
- The safety record of this type of crossing
- The provision of information for regular and occasional users of private level crossings
- Any underlying management or regulatory factors
Our investigation is independent of any investigation by the railway industry, the British Transport Police or by the industry’s regulator, the Office of Rail and Road.
We will publish our findings, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of our investigation. This report will be available on our website.
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