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Residents hit out at railway after crash on level crossing
1:08pm Monday 29th October 2012 in News
A WOMAN had a narrow escape when her car was hit by a steam train on a level crossing on the Wensleydale Railway.
The accident happened at the Fox Park level crossing, near Newton-le-Willows, on Saturday afternoon.
The Wensleydale Railway train was carrying passengers from Leyburn to Bedale when it collided with a car travelling on a farm track.
The only occupant of the car, a female driver, walked away from the accident unscathed, but was left very shaken.
One witness said had the accident happened half a second later, the results could have been far worse.
Passenger Alen McFadzean said: “The car was a real mess.
If she had been half a second earlier, she could have died because the buffer would’ve gone right through the driver's window. Instead of knocking the car off the track, it would have pushed it along.”
Mr McFadzean said the train staff reacted swiftly to make sure no passengers were injured and that the driver of the car was okay.
The train was halted for an hour while volunteer staff helped the police investigation, and then continued on, undamaged by the accident.
The level crossing is used by several households who live on the farmland at the end of the track.
Ben Williams, 18, who lives with his family at Fox Park Farm House, said in August last year a car driven by his brother, Joss, was hit by a steam train as he tried to cross the track.
Earlier this year, the Office of Rail Regulation served the heritage railway with safety improvement notices. They found visibility at the Newton-le-Willows crossing was restricted to 39 metres by vegetation and that one gate at the level crossing was missing and the other left open at the time of the accident.
As a result, Wensleydale Railway implemented sweeping changes to its safety procedures and the crossing now has two gates. It says it is the responsibility of drivers to ensure gates are always closed at the crossing.
But Mr Williams said the latest incident had angered residents.
“The train company is responsible for cutting the grass verge so you can see what’s coming. The grass is so high, it’s very, very difficult to see down the track – you have to press your nose up against the windscreen to see.
“We want something done about it. Our neighbour was lucky her children weren't in the car.”
A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Police said: “The gates were open when she drove through.”
Manager of the railway, Nigel Park, said the accident happened at a user-worked crossing, where drivers needed to open and close the gates.
He said: “The problem we have with these crossings is people don’t close the gates.
“You should stop, open the gates, look and listen, then once you’re across stop again and shut the gates behind you.
“You can’t take the risk on a railway crossing – you’re playing Russian roulette.”