Network Rail sued over Caithness crossing crash
- 29 December 2011
- From the section Highlands & Islands
Network Rail is being sued by the son of a couple killed when their car collided with a train at a level crossing in Caithness two years ago.
Angus MacKay and his wife Margaret, both 81, from Inverness, and Mr MacKay's brother Donald, 66, of Latheron, died in the incident.
The MacKays' son, Donald, said he hoped his action would highlight what he said were shortcomings in crossing safety.
Network Rail said it could not comment on the legal action at this stage.
The crash happened at an unmanned, gate-free level crossing in Halkirk in September 2009.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) published a report on the incident the following September.
In the report, the RAIB said the company "did not properly understand the risk" at the site because it had not taken a record of four previous accidents - one of them fatal - into account.
The branch said: "Had it done so, the level of risk might have justified more costly risk reduction measures, and risk reduction measures that had been identified might have been implemented more quickly and before the accident occurred."
Six recommendations were made on improving safety at the site.
One - upgrading the crossing so that it has a locally monitored automatic barrier - was investigated by Network Rail.
According to the RAIB report, the company concluded that "it would not be reasonably practicable to upgrade the crossing".
The RAIB also said Mr MacKay may not have seen, or had misinterpreted, the warning lights at the level crossing.
A review of his eyesight records concluded that, on balance of probabilities, his sight had not met the standard set by the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA).
The RAIB also said it appeared that Mr MacKay was not wearing spectacles to improve his distance vision as he was advised at eyesight examinations in 2006 and 2009.
Mr MacKay told BBC Radio Scotland: "I think that Network Rail's attitude is one of blame everybody else, accept no blame themselves.
"It seems to be an organisation that is obsessed with cost cutting, including safety rather than prioritising safety."
Mr MacKay's solicitor Cameron Fyfe previously represented a woman who settled out of court with Network Rail after she was seriously injured at the same crossing in October 2002.
Sarah Jappy was pregnant at the time and her baby survived the crash.
Mr Fyfe said: "We are making the same allegations.
"We are saying Network Rail should have erected a barrier and had they done so the accident would not have occurred.
"We are also saying their warning light system is inadequate because if the Sun shines into these lights they are very hard to see."
Network Rail said it would inappropriate to comment on the claim at this stage.