Sun, 05 Feb 2017
A WOMAN walking her dog has said she was nearly struck by a train as she used the Standers level crossing in Hungerford.
The incident involved a 90mph train which allegedly neglected to operate its warning signal – though this was denied by Great Western Railway (GWR).
The drama at Freemans Marsh was recounted on Monday night at a meeting of Hungerford Town Council’s highways and transport committee.
Chairman Rob Brookman revealed that the woman reported the incident directly to the council.
He said: “I’ve got the report here.
“We contacted Network Rail; they contacted GWR, who run the trains, and their train driver said he did give a blast on the horn as he passed the whistle board.”
At certain locations, such as on the approach to a level crossing or footpath crossing, a lineside board is installed to instruct drivers to sound a warning.
These continue to be referred to as 'whistle boards', despite modern trains having two-tone horns instead of whistles.
Mr Brookman said that, according to GWR, the warning gives 11 seconds’ notice of a train approaching at 90mph and added: “That is said to ‘comfortably exceed’ the eight seconds it takes to cross the tracks.
“The driver insists it wasn’t a near miss.
“Had it been, he says he would have stopped the train after the level crossing and reported it.”
Town councillor Helen Simpson said: “I know the lady who had the near miss and she was really shaken by this. Her dog goes flat on the ground every time it hears a train go past now.”
The ABC Railway Guide estimates the ‘individual risk rating’ of the crossing as “very high”.
It records there are around 76 passenger and freight trains using the line at speeds of up to 90mph and more than 50 pedestrians and cyclists using it daily.
Key risk factors are listed as sun glare, low sighting time, the large number of users and the frequency of trains.
However, there have been no incidents reported there, unlike at similar crossings in Marsh Benham and Ufton Nervet, which have both had pedestrian fatalities in recent years.
Signalling standards manager at Network Rail, Tim Mayo, wrote to Mr Brookman stating: “For the medium/ long term we are looking at, preferably, closure by diverting the footpath.
“But meanwhile I can assure you the existing arrangements do meet industry safety standards.”
Town councillor Richard Hudson said: “There’s a sign at that crossing saying it’s closed at night because the drivers can’t give audible warnings.
“I wouldn’t want to see it closed.
“Having flashing light warning signals would make it safer.”
Fellow councillor Rob Chicken suggested: “We should go back to our contact at Network Rail saying we don’t want the footpath closed but that the woman is insistent there wasn’t a warning.
“She would be reassured if they could look into possible improvements to warning signals there.”
Martin Crane said: “They shouldn’t have to rely on the train driver – the warning should be triggered automatically.”
The committee resolved to write with the above suggestions to Network Rail.