Saturday, 13 August 2022

Barriers finally installed at level crossing

BARRIERS have finally been installed at Shiplake level crossing.

BARRIERS have finally been installed at Shiplake level crossing.

Network Rail contractors put in the automated barriers in the early hours of Sunday.

Shiplake Parish Council had campaigned for two years to have barriers at the crossing following a number of accidents involving drivers and trains.

The work was witnessed by Sir David Higgins, the company’s chief executive, who lives in Henley.

He told the Standard: “I was there on Sunday morning with bacon butties for the workers. It was a cold night and they asked me if there was a McDonald’s nearby and I said ‘not around here’.”

Mr Higgins said the barriers had been welcomed by villagers, adding: “I spoke to a Rotarian who told me that he had been waiting six years.”

The new automated barriers come after a successful trial at three sites, two in Scotland and one in Cumbria, and can be installed without making major changes to an existing crossing.Sir David said: “This is a new type of barrier where the electric signal that turns on the lights triggers the level crossing, which means it is a lot more cost-effective to install.”

The crossing previously relied on LED lights to warn drivers that a train was approaching.

Network Rail will be rolling out the new technology to another 50 sites but the full programme of works is yet to be finalised. Patrick Hallgate, route managing director for the western route, said: “Shiplake is one of the crossings in the Thames Valley area that’s particularly prone to misuse and the barriers will act as an extra deterrent.

“We are committed to improving safety on railways and across the region we are upgrading level crossings or seeking to close them when possible.”

Since 2009, there have been 46 reported incidents of misuse and 13 near-misses with vehicles and pedestrians at the Shiplake level crossing. In November 2011, Philip Koomen, from Abingdon, accidentally drove his car into the path of a train on the crossing.

He was later fined £1,500 after admitting being at fault but criticised the layout of the crossing and the lack of a safety barrier.

In 2002, Maggie Edwards and her daughter Catrin, from Shiplake, had a lucky escape when their Toyota 4x4 was hit by a train at the crossing and was shunted 60ft. Mrs Edwards was temporarily blinded by glare from the sun.

In July 2006, Reading estate agent Scott Lomax was lucky to escape with his life when he drove on to the level crossing and was hit by a Henley-to-Twyford train.

The train was travelling at about 15mph when it struck his Vauxhall Astra. The car was trapped under the first carriage and was a write-off but Mr Lomax, 22, from Early, was not hurt.

Mrs Edwards is delighted that barriers have been installed.

“Shiplake crossing is an accident blackspot and barriers have been long overdue,” she said.

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