Network Rail knew that the level crossing where an elderly woman was struck and killed by a train posed an “unacceptable” risk, an investigation has found.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said in a report that “complexities with the technology” meant the Government-owned company had not installed miniature stop lights at the crossing near Ashtead, Surrey, before the fatal incident on April 21 last year.
The 85-year-old victim, who was not named in the report, was walking on Lady Howard footpath and bridleway crossing with a dog and pushing a wheeled trolley bag.
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She started to cross the tracks after a train had passed, but was hit by a second out of service Southern train travelling at 62mph in the opposite direction.
The woman responded to hearing the second train’s horn by “hurrying forwards” but was “unable to get clear of the path of the train in time”, the report said.
The investigation found she was “apparently unaware that the second train was approaching” as it was “hidden behind the first train”.
The RAIB said: “A probable underlying factor was that Network Rail had not provided any effective additional risk mitigation at the crossing, despite having previously deemed the risk to users to be unacceptable.”
It recommend that Network Rail addresses the risk to pedestrians at crossings of this type when a second train can be hidden, and implements “appropriate interim risk mitigations” at crossings awaiting “long-term solutions” to safety issues.
Network Wessex route director Mark Killick said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the person who lost their life at our crossing.
“Any death on the railway is a tragedy and we are always trying to make our crossings safer. In this case, we will be installing warning lights at the foot crossing next year, and in the meantime we’ve placed further warning signs at the crossing, alerting users to the risk of further trains coming when one has just passed. “We worked closely with the RAIB on their report and we accept their findings.”