Press Release from the UK RAIB: Accident at Balnamore level crossing, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on 31 May 2013
The RAIB is carrying out an investigation into an accident which took place at Balnamore automatic half barrier (AHB) level crossing, on 31 May 2013. During this event a car swerved to avoid a rail vehicle which was traversing the crossing and then struck metal fencing at the crossing. The two occupants of the car sustained minor injuries.
At about 03:05 hrs the car was approaching the level crossing from the south when its driver became aware that a rail vehicle was passing over the crossing immediately in front of him. The car driver had received no prior warning of the rail vehicle’s presence; the crossing’s road traffic signals were not operating and its half-barriers were in the raised position.
At the time of the accident, Balnamore level crossing was within a section of track that had been closed to normal rail traffic to enable engineering activities to take place (known as a ‘possession’). The rail vehicle involved in the accident consisted of a rail-mounted trailer containing weed-spraying equipment and a road-rail vehicle (RRV) which was towing it. Both the trailer and RRV were owned and operated by a contractor working for Northern Ireland Railways.
A preliminary examination by the RAIB has shown that, prior to the accident, the automatic operation of the crossing had been disabled by the contractor’s staff – this was in accordance with the railway’s rules for possession management. However, the preliminary examination has also found that the crossing was not manually activated before the rail vehicle traversed it and that an informal working arrangement was being used by the contractor’s staff to protect rail vehicles from road traffic.
The RAIB has found that there have been other instances when engineering vehicles working within possessions have been permitted to pass over automatic level crossings under similar circumstances.
The RAIB’s investigation will consider the sequence of events which led to the accident, and the railway’s rules concerning both the control of level crossings and the management of rail vehicles in possessions. It will also examine the adequacy of the locally-agreed working arrangements and how more informal arrangements came to be used.
The investigation will also aim to identify key safety issues associated with the management of level crossings within possessions and potential areas for improvement.
The RAIB’s investigation is independent of any investigations by the safety authority, the Department for Regional Development (Northern Ireland); the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland; or the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
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.