On 29 September 2009 a collision occurred between a train and a car at the level crossing, at Halkirk, Caithness, resulting in fatal injuries to the three occupants of the car. There were no injuries to anybody on the train which was not derailed.
Investigation concluded that the driver of the car did not react to the road traffic light signals and drove onto the level crossing at the same time as the train arrived.
An underlying factor was that Network Rail did not properly understand the risk at Halkirk level crossing because it had not taken the previous accident record into account. Had it done so, the level of risk might have justified more costly risk reduction measures, and risk reduction measures that had been identified might have been implemented more quickly and before the accident occurred.
Additional observations noted by RAIB include: confusion among the staff undertaking level crossing inspections about the difference between visibility and alignment; and the current design of long hoods fitted to road traffic light signals does not mitigate the effect of falling sunlight for all sun angles.
RAIB has made six recommendations to Network Rail which include the risk assessment of the level crossing; the maintenance of the backboards of the road traffic light signals; and the design of long hoods fitted at level crossings.
Response to recommendations:
- RAIB will periodically update the status of recommendations as reported to us by the relevant safety authority or public body
- RAIB may add comment, particularly if we have concerns regarding these responses.