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Narrow escape for concrete truck on level crossing

10 Dec 19 A concrete mixer truck was nearly smashed by a speeding train because the truck’s driver chose to obey a track worker’s hand signals over the automated signal lights.

CCTV view of the stationary lorry and partly lowered level crossing barrier (highlighted) courtesy of Network Rail
CCTV view of the stationary lorry and partly lowered level crossing barrier (highlighted) courtesy of Network Rail

Shortly before noon on Wednesday 13th March 2019, a passenger train passed over Mucking automatic half barrier level crossing just a few seconds after a partially loaded concrete delivery truck had reversed clear.

The truck was manoeuvring to enter an adjacent Network Rail construction site, near Stanford-le-Hope in Essex.

The truck driver was following hand signals from a railway worker and drove onto the crossing after it had been automatically activated by the approaching train and red stop lights had begun flashing. A lowering crossing barrier came down on the lorry and was manually lifted by site staff, before the lorry reversed off the crossing.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch report1 on the near miss has now been published. It says that the incident happened because staff involved in the work planning, and staff on site, did not recognise and manage risk associated with working near level crossings. Following the incident, Network Rail highlighted this risk in a briefing note issued to organisations and staff working on its infrastructure. The Amey Inabensa joint venture working at the construction site modified procedures and briefed staff on the risk.

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Simon French, chief inspector of rail accidents, said: “This report describes a near-miss that could so easily have turned into a disaster. Safety at automatic level crossings depends on users following the Highway Code, and not entering the crossing after the flashing lights and audible signals h

ave started. In this case the driver of a lorry loaded with concrete followed hand signals from a railway worker and drove his vehicle onto the crossing as the lights began to flash. The lorry reversed clear just six seconds before a train passed.

“The interface between railway companies and contractors can create significant risks if it is not properly managed. It is important that railway staff, who should know how to do the job safely, take the lead in making contractors aware of the hazards that go with working near the track. No matter how small the job or the site, it only takes one concrete mixer to create the conditions for a catastrophic accident. Although the road vehicle driver had a legal duty to stop at the red flashing lights, in this case he should not have been put in such a position by taking his lead from a railway worker waving him on. Proper planning prevents poor performance.”

1. Report 16/2019: Near miss between a passenger train and lorry at Mucking AHB level crossing [link opens pdf]

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