At around 15:50 hrs on 3 October 2011, a pedestrian was struck and fatally injured by a train on Mexico footpath crossing, near Penzance in Cornwall. On approaching the crossing round a curve, the train driver had observed a person standing to the side of the line and had sounded the warning horn immediately before the train reached the crossing. However, the pedestrian then attempted to cross and was struck.
Although it is not possible to be certain why the pedestrian attempted to cross, RAIB considers that she either misjudged the speed of the approaching train or misjudged her position in relation to the approaching train. She probably saw the train too late to make a reasoned judgement about whether she should cross.
The driver had also sounded the train’s horn as required by a lineside ‘whistle’ board when the train was approximately 15-16 seconds from the crossing, and out of sight. If the pedestrian had heard and responded to the sounding of the train’s horn at this stage, it is likely that she would not have passed through the gate and onto the crossing until the train had passed. RAIB considers that the sounding of the horn when the train was 15-16 seconds from the crossing did not serve its function of warning the crossing user of the approaching train for one of the following reasons:
- the sound of the horn was inaudible to her
- she heard a horn being sounded, but did not distinguish it as coming from a train
- she did not register that the train horn was sounded, because she was only approaching the crossing at this time and not yet focused on crossing the railway.
RAIB has made five recommendations. Three recommendations have been made to Network Rail regarding improvements to sighting and warning arrangements for pedestrians using Mexico footpath crossing, developing a national approach to the location and marking of decision points at level crossings and optimising warning arrangements for pedestrians at level crossings provided with whistle boards. One recommendation (in two parts) has been made to RSSB regarding improving intelligence on near-miss incidents at level crossings and enhancing its processes for reviewing the effect of changes made in 2007 to arrangements for sounding train horns at whistle boards. One recommendation has been made to First Great Western regarding a change to standards to require objective testing of horns after a train has been involved in an incident or accident.
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.