Mother of girl killed at Elsenham level crossing ‘appalled’ as it emerges safety gate has been broken for five months

PUBLISHED: 18:49 07 September 2018 | UPDATED: 18:49 07 September 2018

Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson

Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson

Archant

An automatic locking gate for pedestrians at Elsenham level crossing, installed after two teenage girls were killed by a train at the station in 2005, has been out of action for at least five months because engineers have been unable find parts to fix it, it has emerged.

Elsenham rail station. Picture: SaffronPhotoElsenham rail station. Picture: SaffronPhoto

The gate was put in following the death of schoolgirls Charlotte Thompson, 13, and Olivia Bazlinton, 14, who were hit by a train at the station on December 3, 2005.

Olivia’s mother Tina Hughes, who has been campaigning for safer level crossings since her daughter’s death, told the Reporter: “I haven’t been back there since June so I didn’t know. I am appalled to hear this.

“What concerns me is that no one in the Anglia route appears to have informed anyone higher up that there was a problem or even have the courtesy to have informed me.

“They have known for many years that the equipment used at Elsenham is obsolete - they were borrowing from Foxton crossing to make repairs but appear to have run out of options.

Elsenham rail station. Picture: SaffronPhotoElsenham rail station. Picture: SaffronPhoto

“I don’t want another family to go through the trauma of losing a loved one before Network Rail wakes up again.”

Councillor Petrina Lees, district councillor for Elsenham and Henham, also spoke of her anger that the gate had been not been fixed.

She said: “It is incredibly disappointing that this gate has been out of use for months now, despite regular requests for it to be repaired. Considering Network Rail is attempting to close Fullers End crossing due to safety concerns, these safety concerns do not appear to be of high importance at the station. The gate crossing staff try hard to help folk stay safe - it is imperative it is fixed as soon as possible.”

A risk assessment carried out by Network Rail in 2002 identified the potential dangers with the crossing and it was recommended installing a set of gates that would lock automatically as trains approached, but they were never installed.

The automatic locking gates were finally installed in August 2007 following a recommendation by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, and a footbridge was also put up at the station.

Network Rail was prosecuted in 2012 for breaching health and safety laws and fined £1 million for the incident in which the two girls were killed.

It is not the first time the gates have broken down. In 2015, it also came to light that the gates had malfunctioned.

Rupert Lown, Network Rail’s director of safety for Anglia, said: “Firstly I want to apologise that the pedestrian gates at Elsenham level crossing are broken and assure everyone that safety is our priority.

“When faults occur, we seek to fix them as soon as possible, but the replacement parts for these gates are no longer available.

“We have found a solution and ordered new parts and are hoping to have the gates back in use in the next couple of weeks if installation goes well. I am also carrying out a full investigation into why this repair has taken so long to learn what improvements we can make in the long term to further improve safety at the crossing.”

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