March 31, 2012 | Mark Paradies

Press Release from the UK Rail Accident Investigation Branch – Investigation into a fatal accident at Johnson’s footpath level crossing, Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire on 28 January 2012

The RAIB is carrying out an investigation into a fatal accident that occurred at Johnson’s footpath level crossing, Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, on Saturday 28 January 2012. At about 11:40 hrs an express passenger train, the 10:58 hrs service from London Liverpool Street to Cambridge, was travelling at about 64 mph (103 km/h) as it approached Johnson’s crossing. When the train was less than 100 metres from the crossing, the driver observed a pedestrian enter the crossing and walk across the adjacent track towards the path of his train. Although he sounded the train’s horn as a warning and applied the brakes, the pedestrian, a young woman aged 15, was struck and killed.

Johnson’s footpath crossing traverses two tracks and is located close to residential and recreational areas. It is known to be heavily used.

Warning lights (known as miniature stop lights) were installed at the crossing in 2003 to warn pedestrians of approaching trains. These lights are positioned on the far side of the crossing from an approaching user and facing them as they look across. The illumination of the red light indicates to pedestrians that they should ‘stop’ and the crossing has a sign with an instruction not to cross if the red light is showing. The green light indicates to pedestrians that it is ‘clear’ (ie safe to proceed). Instructions on the use of the crossing are displayed on signs on both sides of the railway.

The crossing is also provided with an audible alarm that sounds as trains approach.

The preliminary examination has revealed that the infrastructure manager, Network Rail, had recognised Johnson’s crossing as a high risk location. Consequently, prior to the accident, Network Rail, had commenced planning for the replacement of the crossing with a footbridge.

The investigation will identify the sequence of events that led to the accident. It will also include an examination of the factors that may have influenced the behaviour of the pedestrian, the history of the crossing, its design, operation and the management of the risk to users. In particular, it will review the risk assessments that were carried out and the actions that were taken in response to these.

The RAIB’s investigation is independent of any investigations by the British Transport Police and the safety authority (the Office of Rail Regulation).

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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