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Signage at Frognal Farm level crossing ‘was not clear’, claim rail investigators following smash between train and van

PUBLISHED: 13:58 13 November 2017

Frognal Farm level crossing. Photo: Google

Frognal Farm level crossing. Photo: Google

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Network Rail confirmed the crossing no longer featured power operated gate opening equipment, following the crash on October 23

Rail accident investigators have claimed signage at a level crossing where a train and van crashed last month “was not clear”.

The 2.20pm Southeastern service from Ramsgate to London St Pancras struck a delivery van on the Frognal Farm crossing, between Teynham and Sittingbourne stations, at around 3.03pm on October 23.

The train did not derail, and none of the approximately 80 passengers and crew on board were hurt, however the van was badly damaged, and its driver was taken to hospital with head and upper body injuries.

Frognal Farm level crossing is on a private road giving access to a small number of houses and a farm, and until March this year, users had to open the gates themselves, having first telephoned the Network Rail signaller to confirm that it was safe to cross the line.

In March, Network Rail installed power operated gate opening (POGO) equipment at the crossing, which meant users were still urged to telephone for permission to cross, but were then able to press a button to open the gates, without having to cross the line on foot.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said: “On this occasion there is no evidence that the driver of the delivery van made a telephone call to the signaller. However, the signage provided at the crossing was not, in the RAIB’s view, clear.

“In light of this accident RAIB has issued the following urgent safety advice: ‘Network Rail should urgently review the design and wording of the warning/instruction signs at user worked crossings with POGO equipment, to ensure that the instructions are clear, and alert users to the nature and severity of the risks’.”

The concern was that while there was signage visible at the crossing, it was not replicated next to the button which opened the gates.

However, a Network Rail spokesperson confirmed that the Frognal Farm crossing no longer featured POGO equipment following the crash and had now reverted to its previous operation, with a simple gate, and that the requirement to call the signaller before crossing remained - all of which is outlined in new signage.

The spokesperson added that Network Rail’s only two remaining POGO crossings in the south east were both in Sussex, have red/green warning lights for users and have also recently been ergonomically assessed.

A full investigation by the branch will consider the way in which level crossings have been upgraded with POGO equipment, including the risk assessment and design process, the safety record of such crossings, the provision of information for regular and occasional users of private level crossings, and any underlying management or regulatory factors.

The probe is independent of any investigation by the railway industry, the British Transport Police or by the industry’s regulator, the Office of Rail and Road.

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