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Finally a pledge on safety by Network Rail
NETWORK Rail has pledged to improve safety at two Oxfordshire level crossings which have been plagued with malfunctions.
A catalogue of failures have been uncovered at the Yarnton Lane and Sandy Lane level crossings even though the company spent £50,000 replacing defective equipment in January 2012.
And it said it is looking to overhaul how level crossings in Oxfordshire operate by introducing digital equipment to replace worn out, decades-old machinery.
Tom Pizzey, 85, of Banbury, died at the Sandy Lane crossing when the car he was inside was hit by a freight train on Wednesday, January 2 this year.
Despite initially stating at the time of the incident the crossing was in full working order, Network Rail later revealed 21 faults had been recorded at the crossing in the 12 months since January 2012.
The majority of faults were defective treadles, which trigger the safety barriers to deploy when a train approaches.
Following requests made after the fatal incident, Network Rail has now revealed the Yarnton Line level crossing less than half a mile away experienced 15 faults in 2012.
At Sandy Lane, 11 treadle failures were recorded and eight of the 15 faults at the Yarnton Lane line were also due to defective treadles.
There was a further fault at the Yarnton Lane line less than three weeks after Mr Pizzey’s death when the treadle failed again.
Other problems included one barrier stuck up and one barrier down after a train had passed through and a member of the public using the crossing incorrectly, which triggered an alarm.
Some of the equipment blamed for the signal faults dates back to the 1960s.
Members of the public made complaints to the company back in January 2012 that the Sandy Lane crossing was not working, it has confirmed.
Following Mr Pizzey’s death residents told the Oxford Mail they did not trust the crossing and had actively avoided driving over it due to ongoing problems.
Network Rail has said work to replace broken equipment was already taking place while it looked to upgrade the technology on a more permanent basis.
Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail route managing director, said he accepted there had been faults but was keen to stress that Yarnton Lane and Sandy Lane were not dangerous lines.
He said: “Yes, I can see a time when the number of treadle incidents is reduced to zero. We are constantly reviewing our safety. It is critical for us and something we are keen to keep on top of. That is why we are investing tens of millions of pounds in upgrading our lines and continue to improve and upgrade our signalling centre.”
Network Rail spokeswoman Sam Kelly said the company would look at installing digital treadles which would remove much of the need for cabling.
She added: “We have seen an improvement in reliability but we are still striving to improve reliability further. “We are looking to install new technology, similar to what they have on the West Coast Main line, where you don’t need the treadle arms.”
The company said it hoped to have the majority of its updgrade work carried out over the next four years.
The investigation into Mr Pizzey’s death is ongoing.