Town Crier: Safer solution must be found

The level crossing at Silverdale.
The level crossing at Silverdale.

A photo tells a thousand words and the image of a car crushed under a train at Silverdale (Page 1) could have told a very different story.

Nobody was hurt when the nuclear waste train, making its way back from Sellafield, ploughed into a vehicle at 50 miles an hour.

The occupant of the car, a man from Kendal, had leapt from the vehicle just moments before the train smashed into his vehicle at a level crossing, dragging it 300m down the track.

Disaster was averted – just.

But this story illustrates the real dangers of level crossings – and today’s news that hundreds of them will be closed in the next few years is understandable.

Rail regulators have also today (Tuesday) announced plans to plough millions of pounds into improving safety at hundreds of other high-risk crossings. The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said a total of £109million will be used to improve safety at crossings across the UK.

These decision have been triggered by real tragedies – not near misses – and are not before time.

They include that of Olivia Bazlinton, 14, who was killed with her friend Charlotte Thompson at a crossing at Elsenham in Essex in December 2005.

Accidents such as these are not just a risk to drivers and pedestrians but also those travelling on trains through them.

But the harsh reality is that while human errors can be made and rash decisions taken, accidents will happen.

Taking away level crossings would eliminate this particular danger altogether. A safer solution must be found.