October 19, 2009 | Mark Paradies

Monday Accident & Lessons Learned: UK Rail Accident Investigation Branch to investigate a fatal accident at Halkirk level crossing, near Wick on 29 September 2009

Here’s the press release from the UK RAIB:

The RAIB is carrying out an investigation into a fatal accident that occurred at Halkirk level crossing, near Wick, on 29 September 2009.

The accident occurred at 14:06 hrs, when the 10:38 hrs Inverness to Wick train struck a car on Halkirk Automatic Open Crossing – Locally monitored (AOCL). The three occupants of the car all suffered fatal injuries. There were no casualties on the train, and the damage to it was minimal.

The RAIB’s preliminary examination indicates that the warning lights at the crossing operated as designed, and that the train was driven correctly. There is no evidence that the condition of the track, the railway signalling system, or the highway signage contributed to the accident.

There are 120 AOCLs on Network Rail’s railways, and approximately 40 more on other railways in the UK, mainly in the heritage sector. The crossings inform motorists and pedestrians to stop when trains approach by means of a steady yellow light followed by flashing red lights, and by audible warnings. They are not fitted with barriers. This type of crossing represents approximately two per cent of Network Rail’s population of level crossings, but in the last ten years thirty one per cent of level crossing collisions have taken place at them. Accordingly the RAIB’s investigation will review the more general risk from this type of crossing as well as the particular circumstances at Halkirk.

The RAIB’s investigation is independent of any investigations by the British Transport Police, or by the safety authority.

The RAIB will publish a report, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of its investigation. This report will be available on the RAIB website.

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Now for the lesson learned.

What does a crossing with no gate look like in the UK?

Picture 22.png

Let’s look at it from a different root cause analysis angle…

What kind of Safeguard keeps a car off the track in front of a train?

That’s right … a human action Safeguard (the driver notices the signal and decides to stop).

What could interfere with this Safeguard?

Limited visibility.

Risk taking (beat the train).

Things that distract the driver.

How can we improve the Safeguard?

Remove the hazard (train) or target (car) (overpasses and underpasses).

Engineering safeguards (barricades).

Enhanced warning signed (haven’t thought too much about this one).

Note that changing all drivers to increase their alertness isn’t on this list.

What do you think would work the best and still be cost effective?

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