Network Rail warned about fatal Needham Market crossing, says report

Gate at the Gipsy Lane crossing, Needham Market A footbridge or subway could be added to the crossing at Gipsy Lane

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Network Rail could have done more to prevent the death of an 82-year-old woman who died when crossing a Suffolk railway line, a report has found.

Brenda McFarland was killed last August when she was hit by a train at the Gipsy Lane crossing in Needham Market.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch said Network Rail was told warnings of oncoming trains were "not sufficient" prior to the fatal collision.

Network Rail said it was looking at ways to make the crossing safer.

The report said the "immediate cause of the accident was that the pedestrian continued to cross when she became aware of the approaching train".

The driver of the train, which was travelling from London to Norwich, said he had seen a person on the crossing and sounded a warning horn.

Start Quote

There is a speed restriction now on the approach to the crossing that means the warning time that users get is adequate”

End Quote Dave Ward Network Rail
Vulnerable users

The report said Mrs McFarland moved from the adjacent line into the path of the train because she "either did not see the approaching train, she misjudged the speed of the train, or she believed that the train was approaching her on the line she was standing on".

It also said concerns had been raised about the safety of pedestrians crossing the line, prior to the fatal collision.

Recommendations had been made in 2006 and 2008 for sirens to be placed at the level crossing to warn of approaching trains, but they were not implemented.

There is an instruction 372m (1220ft) away from the crossing for train drivers to sound their whistle.

In May last year a study found that this did not provide a sufficient warning to vulnerable users of the crossing.

Temporary safety measures including a reduced speed limit were being discussed as a result, but were not put in place.

Network Rail owns and manages the infrastructure at the crossing.

Dave Ward, Network Rail's route managing director for the Anglia region, said the report made for "some very challenging reading".

Mr Ward said Network Rail was now looking at closing the crossing or providing a footbridge or subway for pedestrians.

He also said tests were being carried out on an alarm from Norway which could be added to the crossing "in about eight weeks' time".

An inquest into Mrs McFarland's death was opened and adjourned last September.

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