A MUM has criticised Rail bosses after her infant daughter got through a level crossing gap seconds before a train hurtled by.

Alex Jacob said the gap only appeared when a new crossing was installed under controversial Network Rail plans.

But the rail infrastructure firm has said parents had to take responsibility for their children’s safety.

The two village crossings in Steventon are the only ones in a residential area on a high speed line in the country.

Mrs Jacob, 41, was with daughter Elizabeth and her dog when they came to the crossing at The Causeway on May 4.

Earlier this year Network Rail removed staff who operated the barriers on site and it now runs them remotely via CCTV from Swindon.

She said: “I stopped to put the dog on the lead and, as I was doing that, my two-year-old walked up to the gates, which were down.

“I wasn’t too concerned as I assumed there was no way she could get onto the line and that she would just stand at the gates and watch the train.

“To my horror she turned to her left and began to slip down a toddler-sized gap between the barrier base and fence.”

Mrs Jacob said she “dived” to grab Elizabeth before she got through the other side, “a split second before she would have gone out of my reach”.

She said: “A few seconds later a train came past.”

She fears a child or dog could pass through the gap at the crossing and another at Stocks Lane in the village.

The Stocks Lane resident, also mum to Isabelle, four months, said: “I believe that the railway has a duty of care to ensure such holes and gaps do not exist.”

Steventon Parish Council opposed the move to remove staff from the site and has raised Mrs Jacob’s case with Network Rail. The new barrier system took effect from April 15. No jobs were lost.

Network Rail spokesman Kate Snowden said: “The level crossing at Causeway has recently been renewed is now automated and operated with CCTV managed at Swindon integrated control.

“The crossing is a visual and physical barrier to warn motorists and pedestrians of approaching trains, but just as with crossings on busy roads, anyone waiting with small children or pets should keep them close.

“As a safety measure, the signaller will check the crossing is clear on the monitor before letting trains pass.”

Steventon parish councillor Joe Bennett said: “We have had numerous problems with Network Rail over the past year since it pushed through the changes to the crossing.

“The latest problem is they have left large gaps in the fence either side of the barriers, meaning that small children are able to sneak through the gap.

“We told them about this a long time ago and they have still done nothing about it.”