HomeGovernanceAccident InvestigationCrossing barriers lift as train approaches

Crossing barriers lift as train approaches

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The driver of a train service from Norwich to Sheringham had a shock when, as he approached the level crossing at Norwich Road, to the north east of Norwich itself, the barriers lifted and traffic started to cross.  He was around 200 yards away at the time and doing 45mph.

This happened at about 19:53 on Sunday 24 November 2019. The train was a four-coach Class 755 passenger train, one of the new bi-mode units being built by Stadler for Greater Anglia and that had only been operating passenger services on this line since 6 November 2019.

When the train approached, the crossing barriers were in the lowered position. Suddenly, the barriers lifted, the level crossing warning lights went out and cars began to cross the railway. The train driver applied the train’s emergency brake and sounded its warning horn, but the train was unable to stop before reaching the crossing.

Luckily, no road vehicles were struck, but a car passed in front of the train around a quarter of a second before the train went over the crossing.

Investigators for the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) got involved, even though no accident had actually occurred, due to the high risk of something similar happening again. They found that the level crossing equipment, which was installed in 2000, included a predictor system that detects the speed of approaching trains so that the time interval between barriers being lowered and a train arriving is similar for all trains, irrespective of their speed.

Since the incident, Network Rail has modified the settings of this and similar level crossings on the line to reduce the chance of a repeat of this incident.

The RAIB will continue its investigation, considering in particular:

  • The sequence of events which led to the incident;
  • The design, implementation and operation of the predictor system, including any effects of rail head contamination due to fallen leaves;
  • The design of relevant elements of the class 755 train and the process for accepting it for use on this route
  • Any other underlying factors.

The results of this investigation will be available in due course.

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