Incident at Bagillt user-worked crossing, North Wales

Bagillt user-worked crossing with telephones, Flintshire, North Wales.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has issued a report on a near miss at Bagillt user-worked level crossing, North Wales, during which the assistant to the driver of a heavy goods vehicle had to sprint to safety.

At around 11:57 on Friday 17 August 2018, a passenger train travelling from Manchester Piccadilly to Holyhead passed over a user-worked level crossing with telephones (UWC-T) at Bagillt, Flintshire. A road vehicle weighing 60.5 tonnes had just passed over it, but railway signals had not been set to red to protect the crossing from train movements. The vehicle driver’s assistant, who was walking back over the crossing to close the gates behind the vehicle, was alarmed to see the approaching train and ran off the crossing.

Although the assistant had telephoned the signaller and obtained his permission before crossing the railway, the signaller had not stopped trains approaching when a large vehicle needed to cross the railway, as required by the Rule Book.

The vehicle involved was a ‘baler’, an articulated lorry comprising a tractor unit hauling a semi-trailer equipped with a large ram and loading crane which crushes cars into bales of scrap metal.

While the user had not told the signaller that the vehicle was large, as required by a sign displayed at the crossing, the signaller did not ask questions to establish the size of the vehicle, and also did not know that most people using this crossing did so with heavy goods vehicles, although some Network Rail staff were aware of this.

Network Rail was unaware that this exceptionally heavy vehicle, subject to special requirements when on public roads, used the crossing regularly.

RAIB investigations do not set out to establish blame, liability or carry out prosecutions. They are conducted to establish the facts of what happened so as to prevent future accidents and incidents and improve railway safety.

In this case, the investigation concluded that Network Rail’s processes for risk management at this type of level crossing did not provide railway staff or road users with a coherent and consistent process for deciding when a vehicle should be treated as ‘large’, and did not provide an effective interface between signallers, crossing users and railway staff responsible for liaison with users and inspecting level crossings.

The report makes one recommendation, addressed to Network Rail, seeking improvements in its management processes for user-worked crossings with telephones. It also contains two further observations. One, relating to how signallers decide when it is safe for users to cross the railway at level crossings, provides evidence supporting the need for Network Rail to complete implementation of a previous RAIB recommendation. The other notes poor application of safety critical communication protocols in some training material.

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