Safety failure at Elsenham rail deaths crossing 10 years on

Elsenham level crossing Image copyright PA
Image caption Safety improvements have been made to Elsenham's level crossing since two teenagers were killed in 2005

The mother of a teenager who was killed at a level crossing 10 years ago has said she was upset to find a safety feature at the site was not working.

Charlotte Thompson, 13, and Olivia Bazlinton, 14, were hit by a train at the crossing in Elsenham, Essex, on 3 December 2005.

An automatic locking system was found to have failed last week.

The system has since been repaired, but Tina Hughes said it was "absolutely critical" it does not fail again.

"I was pretty upset because I hadn't been told," she said. "It's the 10th anniversary and I expected Elsenham to be perfectly safe.

"I'm delighted to hear that it's been tested and it's now working again, but (I had my) heart in (my) mouth."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Charlotte Thompson (left) and Olivia Bazlinton died after being hit by an express train

The girls were hit by an express train as they tried to catch a Cambridge-bound service to go Christmas shopping.

They had opened the unlocked gates and walked on to the the station footpath crossing.

Automatic locks were installed in 2007 following a recommendation by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, and in 2012 Network Rail was fined £1m after admitting health and safety offences.

Timeline of events

3 December 2005: Charlotte Thompson and Olivia Bazlinton killed after being hit by an express train at a level crossing in Elsenham

February 2007: An inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death

August 2007: Automatic locking system and footbridge introduced

February 2011: A previously unseen Network Rail risk report revealed safety concerns over the crossing had been expressed in 2002, prompting a new inquiry into the girls' deaths

March 2012: Network Rail is fined £1m after admitting health and safety breaches

Ms Hughes became Network Rail's "level crossings user champion" in 2012 and said the company had done "a lot" to improve safety.

Network Rail said it had improved sighting at 1,100 crossings, installed brighter LED lights at 494 and fitted more than 100 with audible warnings that announce when a second train is coming.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Tina Hughes, Olivia Bazlinton's mother, warned many level crossings were still not safe enough

But Ms Hughes warned many crossings were "the same as they were when they were put in in the 19th Century".

"Every crossing should have some kind of active warning because now we are distracted by smartphones and earphones playing music and just the business of life," she said.

A Network Rail spokesman said since 2010, the company had closed 987 level crossings nationally, including 111 in the east of England.

More than 100 level crossing managers are now employed by the company to oversee "the safety and management of crossings in a geographical patch", the spokesman added.

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