Report 01/2014: Fatal accident at Motts Lane level crossing

Fatal accident at Motts Lane level crossing, Witham, Essex, 24 January 2013.


At 17:37 hrs on 24 January 2013, a cyclist who was using the footpath and bridleway level crossing at Motts Lane, near Witham in Essex, was struck and fatally injured by a passenger train travelling at almost 100 miles per hour (160 kilometres per hour).

It was dark at the time. The red/green lights provided at the crossing to indicate the approach of trains were showing red, and the associated audible warning was sounding. The cyclist was unaware that the train was so close to the crossing, probably because it was difficult to pick out the train’s headlight amongst the lights of Witham station, about 700 metres from the crossing.

The cyclist rode onto the crossing into the path of the train, although the lights were showing red. Although it is not possible to know why he did this, it may have been because he was used to seeing the lights at red for long periods before trains arrived at the crossing, and decided for himself whether it was safe to cross. The lights showed red for long periods because there were deficiencies in the design of the railway signalling system in the area, and it was not being used as it was designed to be.

The RAIB has made four recommendations, addressed to Network Rail, which cover:

  • the review and reduction of long waiting times at automatic level crossings
  • the design and checking of software which is used for automatic route setting in signalling control centres
  • minimising the effect of local variations in the way trains are signalled that may affect the length of the periods during which red lights are displayed at level crossings
  • modification of risk management processes for crossings with miniature stop lights to include allowance for the length of time that the red lights show.

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.

RAIB Recommendation response for Motts Lane level crossing

Published 10 December 2014