On 23 October 2017, a passenger train collided with a parcel delivery van at Frognal Farm user worked level crossing, near Teynham, in Kent. The train was travelling at 89 mph (143 km/h). It did not derail, and no-one on the train was hurt, but the train was damaged by the impact. The van was severely damaged and the van driver suffered serious injuries.
The van driver was delivering a parcel to a property on the far side of the crossing. He initially went to an incorrect address, where he was given directions which involved going over the crossing to reach the correct address. The level crossing was equipped with power-operated gates, controlled by a button at the side of the approach road, and a telephone which vehicle drivers were required to use to contact the signaller to obtain permission to cross. Being unfamiliar with user worked crossings, the van driver did not notice the telephone and pressed the button to operate the gates. They opened, and so he returned to his van to drive across the crossing, believing it was safe to cross.
There were multiple signs associated with the crossing which were placed in a way that meant they did not stand out to the van driver. The van driver had been told that he needed to press a green button to open the gates at the crossing, and he was focused on locating this button. The fact that the gate opened when the button was pressed, coupled with the van driver’s previous experience of other types of level crossing, may have reinforced his view that it was safe to cross.
The RAIB has found that an underlying cause of the accident was that the system where authorised users are responsible for briefing visitors about the safe way to use private crossings, is unreasonable in present-day circumstances.
The RAIB has made four recommendations, the first directed to Network Rail, the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail and Road to improve the signage at private crossings and review the concept of authorised users. The second is directed to the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail and Road to change the law covering the signage at private crossings. The third is to Network Rail, to improve the safety of private crossings equipped with power operated gate opening equipment. The last is also directed to Network Rail, to review the way in which it collects and maintains data about regular users of private crossings, so that it can better communicate important information about crossing safety.