Whittlesey - collision between freight train and tractor. (19/08/21)

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kev1974

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Network Rail have tweeted that they plan to reopen tomorrow morning:


A mile of track, signalling equipment and the level crossing have been repaired. Good work by all concerned.

Excellent. I read on local facebook groups that 1700 concrete sleepers have had to be replaced, not sure how true it is, would that equate to a mile of track?

Were they damaged by one of the derailed items or the straw trailer being roughly shoved over them?
 

norbitonflyer

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It's far simpler to install a telephone circuit than it is to install a control circuit.
You can get a broadband connection down a telephone line these days, so multiplexing a control circuit onto the line shouldn't be difficult. Indeed, it's basically the same principle as an entryphone.
 

alxndr

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You can get a broadband connection down a telephone line these days, so multiplexing a control circuit onto the line shouldn't be difficult. Indeed, it's basically the same principle as an entryphone.
The issue is making it sufficiently robust to meet the requirements for a safety critical circuit.
 

LAX54

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You can get a broadband connection down a telephone line these days, so multiplexing a control circuit onto the line shouldn't be difficult. Indeed, it's basically the same principle as an entryphone.
On the Norwich / Lowestoft / Yarmouth resig, where there are umpteen UWC's they used the GSM network for the Crossing phones, whether that's a good idea or not, time will tell !
 

Peter Sarf

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Question - If there is a circuit between the phone at the crossing and the signaller, then there is probably a similar circuit in reverse.
Couldn't the 'gates open' button be dependant on the phone being off hook (call being made) - or better - since the signaller has now been 'disturbed' - couldn't he/she release the green button remotely.
i don't buy (in this day and age) that this can't be done reasonably effectively and at modest cost - may not be 'belt and braces 'ideal' - but means that the green button can't be pressed without the telephone being used.

If the rule is that the green button mustn't be used before the telephone has been - then interlock them so that it can't be?
Yes. Surely a simple bit of technology could be included to disable the gate open button until the system or signaller is satisfied a call has been made. Also would help if the gate being open affected the railway signal aspect.
As a matter of interest, how much of UK HGV (or tractor) training and testing is specifically related to POGO crossings?
Probably about as much as the normal/regular car driving test and lessons is based on motorways - very little.
I must admit I find myself puzzled that members of an industry that, rightly, prides itself on it's safety record are so keen to simply blame the driver of the tractor rather than consider whether the railway could do something better to ensure that future incident are even less likely. By all means if you read all the instructions the correct way to use the crossing is clear. But by having a numbered list, which does not include the most important instruction to phone the signaller, would appear to be opening up the signs to misunderstanding. Indeed the RAIB in the Frognal Farm report went to great lengths on this subject:



Before going onto recommend:



Now in this case it may very well be that the tractor driver was intimately familiar with how the crossing is supposed to be used and didn't use it properly. But clearly it has been identified in previous incidents that the crossing signs are not as clear as they could be. Not having item one on the numbered list as "Call the signaller to check it is clear to cross" seems like a huge oversight to me. So rather than simply dismiss this incident as being a case of a driver being impatient or to stupid to be allowed on the road surely we should be thinking to ourselves that even if those are true actually it has shown up a problem with the signage which could be corrected so that the chance of an accident is further reduced?
Yes, we should always be looking at reasonable steps to avoid risks for those around us.
I'd have thought the same until I realised what I'd done when I first saw the sign in question - read "Stop", then went straight to the numbered list of instructions, having assumed the remainder of the red-background text was the boilerplate warning I've already seen on red-backgrounded signs all over the network.

Thus I'm inclined to agree with the RAIB in saying that it's a weakness, regardless of the extent to which it was or wasn't involved in this incident.

Looking at it as a whole, I find that I see the large "STOP" message, and then my attention is drawn to the numbered list. I'm looking for instructions, and we're accustomed to seeing instructions in ordered lists. If you've ever used a recipe (especially online) there's a title, a blurb that waffles at great length, and then an ordered list. It's what we're used to.

What we aren't used to is the main important thing being item 0 in the list of things to do.
The above two amplify my point that it is easy to ignore the white on red writing. We all scan read to a greater or lesser extent and identify the important bits we need. Try reading duel language road signs. In Wales it takes me an age to understand the road signs I often spend too long trying to read the Welsh language part before realising it does not make sense - that leaves me no time to read the English part. I would say it takes more than twice as long to understand a dual language sign even though you only need to read half of it. Different coloured backgrounds would help in the case of bi-lingual signs BUT my point is the use of different fonts / colours is counter productive in the cases where the whole sign should be read.
There was a thread here a few months ago about what if somebody was deaf and wanted to use one of these crossings what would happen? Food for thought..

Everybody in here has an interest in the railway so you’re looking at crossings from a different viewpoint. The average person doesn’t have these same viewpoints and I think people here forge that.
I agree with that - we must think outside the box. The box being our railway world.
No I haven't that is why I said it was a question.
But - again from a point of not knowing I would ask:-
1) Should pedestrian access be via a separate small gate from the one with the green button for the cattle/vehicular access?
2) If the signaller is being telephoned regarding opening the main gates he already has to have his attention on the matter, otherwise what's the point in ringing him.
If he thinks the way is clear he could press a release button with a 30 second timer that allows the green button to open the gates.
3) Relying on the local idiot to a) read and b) use a telephone before crossing is not good enough - obviously - it risks endangering the driver and passengers, never mind the idiot.
If the signaller is that busy with crossings then perhaps the signaller needs to be more than one. I find myself wondering whether closing all those crossing keeper boxes was a false economy - probably an over economy !.
I do not think I missed it: why is the gate control not locked by the signalling? Does it at least warn someone somewhere that the line is obstructed?

Based on what I have seen locally (and this crossing is not far from me), it is probably misuse but those signs are still poor. I was told years ago not to use small areas of white on red text next to black on white because many people find it difficult to read (but equally many do not) and that was only an advertising/information leafket not a safety critical sign. How can the railway not know this?
Yes, this is a conflict of types regardless of which is thought best.
Whereas I am equally puzzled that people seem so keen to find any possible avenue to blame the railway. Whatever the outcome of the investigation there is no doubt in my mind that the employer of the tractor driver should have ensured that they were fully aware of the crossing and its method of operation before allowing them out, given that this is a private road and not a public highway. Surely the crossing has been used on countless occasions in the past without an accident occurring ?
The railway ought to do whatever it can to easily/cheaply avert blame or excuse makers.
I think those are trying to remove reasons for other people to blame the railway and perhaps make it that a fool in a hurry (or whatever the phease in English law is) is less likely to miss an important instruction.
Even if, as i suspect, the tractor driver is completelt to blame surely it makes sense to reduce the isk and excuses made as much as reasonably possible.
The issue is making it sufficiently robust to meet the requirements for a safety critical circuit.
But it only has to be more robust that the current non-system.
 

O L Leigh

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But it only has to be more robust that the current non-system.

I dislike farm crossings of any sort, especially at this time of year, and so I exercise greater vigilance and am very aware of vehicle movements near to them. The majority of farmers appear to be trustworthy and you do frequently see vehicles waiting patiently for you to pass before crossing, although you do also see UWCs where the gates are habitually left open, which I will report. It's also not unheard of to be cautioned because a crossing user has failed to call back to confirm that they have crossed safely and that the gates have been closed.

There is a system of sorts, in that a UWC user should phone for permission to cross and then phone back once they have cleared the line and returned the gates to the closed position. However, this does rely on them phoning in the first place and not just taking matters into their own hands, and answering the signaller truthfully in regard to the status of the crossing after they have used it. It's not perfect and I know that it has a lot of holes in it that permit abuse.

While the history of accidents on crossings of this type clearly shows that they present a risk both to the railway and to crossing users, I'm unsure what the best way would be to deal with it. Clearly there is an issue to be addressed, but I don't know whether better signage would really make a huge difference nor that interlocking crossing gates with the signalling would be affordable or practical (or even possible where the route is Absolute Block, as many rural routes still are).

My feeling is that better signage would only really help new or infrequent users of UWCs but that their effectiveness on frequent or regular users would be less. Once you've used a crossing a handful of times you become familiar with the procedure and less likely to read the instructions each and every time. Given the types of vehicles that most often cause incidents, it's these types of users that seem to be causing the greatest risk and therefore these users that need to be reached most urgently. No matter how good the signage, I feel that it would not have the effect we really want.

Gate locks are a nice thought but they also need to be effective. Controlling when gates can be opened is only one half of the equation because the crucial thing to controlling access to the crossing is ensuring that they are closed again afterwards. Gates need to be latched open to allow the user to cross the railway safely in one movement, so what's to prevent an unscrupulous user just leaving them open for their mate who's coming along later or to expedite the return trip back to the yard? The nature of farm traffic over crossings is that they don't always fit a pattern, so automating the latches, whether with a timer or a sensor, could be problematic. Locks and latches would also need to be tamperproof to prevent the truly unscrupulous from defeating the mechanism.

I will just add this anecdote by way of explaining what I'm going to say next. A friend of mine was involved in an incident that was investigated by the RAIB. When my friend read the report they gave a reaction which I will reproduce for you here verbatim and in full. The reaction was a loud and vehement "Bullsh*t!!".

I'd like to hope that what the RAIB discover about this will be a completely factual record and that their recommendations reflect this. My worry is that, when you're relying heavily on someone to explain their actions, especially actions that have lead to a serious and expensive accident, they tend to obfuscate. I fear that, if there was some reason why the tractor driver was failing to pay sufficient attention to notice a Freightliner an intermodal train bearing down on him or he simply thought he could just nip across in front if it, it's not likely that he'll freely admit to it.

I read on local facebook groups that 1700 concrete sleepers have had to be replaced

Oh nice!! So at least one stretch of the Fen line will ride nice and smoothly then. ;)
 
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plugwash

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One thing that strikes me about the signage is that there is no indication that the gates are not interlocked with the signalling.

With a manual gate it's pretty obvious, but with user-worked power gates it's much less so.
 

alf

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One way of making sure user worked crossings are used properly would be to change the law.

If there were more then 3 incidents of misuse by the land owner or his authorised users in x years the crossing would be closed permanently.

Warnings would be issued after the first & second incident.
If it is the only access to a field, tough, the owner’s staff should have been properly instructed & watched at work.

Genghis Khan & Judge Jefferies would have been much tougher
 

O L Leigh

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This was on the Ely-peterborough line, not the Fen line.

Yes I know precisely where it happened.

One way of making sure user worked crossings are used properly would be to change the law.

If there were more then 3 incidents of misuse by the land owner or his authorised users in x years the crossing would be closed permanently.

Warnings would be issued after the first & second incident.
If it is the only access to a field, tough, the owner’s staff should have been properly instructed & watched at work.

Genghis Khan & Judge Jefferies would have been much tougher

Hanging's too good for them. Grr!! :lol:

I happen to agree that the solution might turn out to be a legal remedy, but I think it might work better if it was based more upon the relationship between the authorised user and Nitwit Rail. Something like a financial bond or surety placed with Nitwit Rail over and above any insurances that are required, or financial penalties as a consequence of incidents arising from crossing misuse. Admittedly that doesn't do much to prevent misuse by farm traffic whizzing over crossings with gay abandon in the first place, which I think is what most people here would prefer to see. But I agree with the principle that the guilty are punished and not the entire farming community.

As for penalties for the farmer; well in this instance I think he's already been penalised. He's had a trailer and it's load written off and presumably the towing vehicle has been damaged too requiring repair or replacement. None of this stuff comes cheap. He's also had one of his accesses blocked for the best part of a week which will no doubt have affected his ability to run his business as usual at what is the busiest time of year for the farming community.
 
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norbitonflyer

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Another point about the signage is that the last sentence on the white on red bit could be read to imply that you only need to call the signalbox if your vehicle is large or slow-moving (which is the case at automatic half barrier crossings). And unlike AHBs, the notice does not even define "large or slow moving" bin any case a subjective. Although on the open road tractors are relatively slow, and tractor/trailer combinations relatively long, they are fairly typical of the type of vehicle that might be expected to use a farm crossing.
 

furnessvale

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Yes I know precisely where it happened.

As for penalties for the farmer; well in this instance I think he's already been penalised. He's had a trailer and it's load written off and presumably the towing vehicle has been damaged too requiring repair or replacement. None of this stuff comes cheap. He's also had one of his accesses blocked for the best part of a week which will no doubt have affected his ability to run his business as usual at what is the busiest time of year for the farming community.
Unless, of course, the railway is found negligent in which case he will have a new tractor and trailer, plus compensation for the lost crop and business.
 

GB

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One thing that strikes me about the signage is that there is no indication that the gates are not interlocked with the signalling.

With a manual gate it's pretty obvious, but with user-worked power gates it's much less so.

Why does the user need to know whether the gates are interlocked or not...why would they even know what interlocking is.

People are complaining about the signs, surely adding more information is not the answer?
 

Peter Sarf

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One way of making sure user worked crossings are used properly would be to change the law.

If there were more then 3 incidents of misuse by the land owner or his authorised users in x years the crossing would be closed permanently.

Warnings would be issued after the first & second incident.
If it is the only access to a field, tough, the owner’s staff should have been properly instructed & watched at work.

Genghis Khan & Judge Jefferies would have been much tougher
If it is easy to attribute all the incidents to one farm or business it would make sense to eventually remove the risk.
Another point about the signage is that the last sentence on the white on red bit could be read to imply that you only need to call the signalbox if your vehicle is large or slow-moving (which is the case at automatic half barrier crossings). And unlike AHBs, the notice does not even define "large or slow moving" bin any case a subjective. Although on the open road tractors are relatively slow, and tractor/trailer combinations relatively long, they are fairly typical of the type of vehicle that might be expected to use a farm crossing.
This prompts me to think. If a tractor driver is using the same crossing repeatedly they are going to end up getting a bit lazy/complacent - getting off and on the tractor all the time. I also wonder how quickly the phone gets answered if the signaller is busy.
 

30907

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Another point about the signage is that the last sentence on the white on red bit could be read to imply that you only need to call the signalbox if your vehicle is large or slow-moving (which is the case at automatic half barrier crossings). And unlike AHBs, the notice does not even define "large or slow moving" bin any case a subjective. Although on the open road tractors are relatively slow, and tractor/trailer combinations relatively long, they are fairly typical of the type of vehicle that might be expected to use a farm crossing.
"Always telephone" in the previous sentence is clear enough, though.

Looking again at the signage, I wonder if part of the problem is catering for pedestrians/cyclists and vehicles/animals on one sign? Perhaps the focus should be on the latter? Something like:

"STOP
Phone signaller to check if you can cross safely.
Tell them if you need extra time to cross.
Only cross if the signaller gives permission.

Pedestrians/cyclists/riders - look both ways and cross quickly if the line is clear.

OPERATING THE GATES (1.2.3.) - make this a separate sign.....
 

O L Leigh

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Unless, of course, the railway is found negligent in which case he will have a new tractor and trailer, plus compensation for the lost crop and business.

Well we shall have to wait for the findings of the accident investigation to discover that. However, as I’ve mentioned several times before, I still can’t understand how the tractor driver failed to see the train. In light of this I don’t think the farmer should be holding out for much in the way of recompense for the losses incurred.
 

jupiter

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The Frognall report was very interesting, thank you for the link.

The signage is appalling. This stuff is supposed to be as fool-proof (and therefore safe) as it possibly can be. Glaring deficiencies in the signage and unworkable assumptions of “people being briefed by authorised users” have already been pointed out by Frognall. What’s changed? Who’s asleep at the wheel?
 

Clarence Yard

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The Frognall report was very interesting, thank you for the link.

The signage is appalling. This stuff is supposed to be as fool-proof (and therefore safe) as it possibly can be. Glaring deficiencies in the signage and unworkable assumptions of “people being briefed by authorised users” have already been pointed out by Frognall. What’s changed? Who’s asleep at the wheel?

The DfT. The signage regs haven’t been changed.
 

midland1

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May be the tractor driver did see the train "O its only a goods train they only go about 20mph they lots of time to cross"
 

Peter Sarf

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May be the tractor driver did see the train "O its only a goods train they only go about 20mph they lots of time to cross"
Maybe the tractor got stuck ?. Or what happened to me was the trailers I was towing got unhitched, first I knew was when the trailers overtook me on a downhill stretch !. There was always the risk of the pin getting dislodged or damaged going over a bump - like a railway crossing. I used to check it every trip and re-affix the wire if needs be. But in my case it was a new improved safer pin - the farm ceased using that design after that. Point is driving over fields and tracks was a good way of introducing faults and a level crossing would be a bad time for the fault to rear its ugly head.

My hunch however is that the tractor driver was complacent / lazy. But we shall have to wait and see. Making the signs clearer just helps avoid excuses which could make a difference in court.
 
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Bald Rick

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The best way to remove the risk is - obviously - to close the crossing. Farm crossings are usually pretty simple to close, it just needs a lot of short term cash and land agents.
 

6Gman

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I think there is a problem with any signage where an action billed as no.1 in a sequence isn't the first action required.

Would it not be better if the signage was basically:

1. STOP
2. Ring the signaller
3. If granted permission open gates and cross immediately
4. Make sure vehicle is clear of crossing
5. Close all gates and inform signaller

?
 

Peter Sarf

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Surely the above comment could apply to signallers, engine drivers, and more or less anybody doing a job...
I would like to think that signallers and train drivers have had more training and profiling. Certainly the tractor drivers I knew consisted of casual labour like me and the experienced farm hands. The casual labour drivers were predominantly English in those days made up of some who were students (like me) and the rest were unemployed, some for er various reasons.

We were driving tractors that only came out to work for about 8 weeks a year. You could tell as they were not reliable. Never turn the engine off as 50% chance it would not start without assistance from a farm hand with a battery and/or Easy Start. One year a driver ended up in a ditch with a rear wheel of a tractor on his leg - VERY lucky. He could not make the tractor turn the bend as the differential was locked. Transpired the diff lock pedal had become depressed and would not release as the spring to make it rise was lengthened by all the dirt in the coils.

I had a near miss with my trailers once (see earlier post).

Point is farm equipment and drivers can be a very motley bunch in my experience.
 

WesternBiker

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"Always telephone" in the previous sentence is clear enough, though.

Looking again at the signage, I wonder if part of the problem is catering for pedestrians/cyclists and vehicles/animals on one sign? Perhaps the focus should be on the latter? Something like:

"STOP
Phone signaller to check if you can cross safely.
Tell them if you need extra time to cross.
Only cross if the signaller gives permission.

Pedestrians/cyclists/riders - look both ways and cross quickly if the line is clear.

OPERATING THE GATES (1.2.3.) - make this a separate sign.....
That - or something similar - seems much more sensible to me.

I agree with others that the Frognall report was very revealing.
 

High Dyke

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@LAX54 Where was that picture taken? Someone else will surely be able to answer, but I’m not sure that STOP signs are normally provided at UWCs by Nitwit Rail. Could it be that someone else has put that up thereby causing confusion with the official signage?
POGO crossings have a STOP sign fitted, as well as the instructions for use. I was reading about these types of crossing this morning, having fielded a request to cross at one.

The acronym refers to the power operated gates. The crossing affected by this incident does not seem to be of the POGO type.
 

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