Elsenham: Report Out After Level Crossing Deaths

A father whose daughter was killed in a level crossing accident in Essex has described Network Rail's response to a report on crossing safety as 'mealy mouthed'.

14 year old Olivia Bazlinton and her 13 year old friend Charlotte Thompson who died at Elsenham crossing in 2005, was one of a number considered in a report by the House of Commons Transport Committee.

One of the MPs' recommendations was that more should be done to improve communications with the families of those involved in crossing accidents.

Today, the committee published Network Rail's response to the committee's report, with Network Rail answering the points made by the MPs.

On family communications,  Network Rail said that should any deaths occur in crossing incidents ``we will provide the families of those involved with a single point of contact for as long as the families feel this is necessary''.

Network Rail also said: ``We are of course reliant on the public using level crossings correctly and adhering to signage, guidance and instructions.

``Rather tragically we know this is not always the case. But equally we know the way in which some level crossings were originally designed and have since been maintained and operated can also put the public at risk and have led to tragic accidents.

Olivia's father Chris Bazlinton said he was ``very disappointed'' with the Network Rail response. saying that the company had ``gone back to their old argument that it is the user at fault - as they did originally with Charlie (Charlotte) and Liv (Olivia)''.

Mr Bazlinton went on: ``I had hoped that Network Rail would have finally got the message, listened and admitted they got it wrong.

``It seems Network Rail are still not really prepared to admit their failings: their comments are mealy-mouthed and some of the responses are full of holes.''

In its response, Network Rail said it was ``totally committed to maintaining our level crossings such that they may be used safely, to close crossings where we can, and to replace crossings with alternative routes across the railway such as bridges and underpasses''.

Network Rail also said that its chief executive Mark Carne had made ``a full and unreserved'' apology on March 7 following the MPs' criticism of their previous treatment of the families of those involved in crossing incidents.

Bur Mr Bazlinton said today: ``Network Rail has apologised publicly - we saw the chief executive on television news - but (we) have not received any communication from him or anyone else from the company.''

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: ``We welcome Network Rail's apology for failing to ensure public safety at level crossings.

``Now we need action, not just words, to close level crossings where possible and reduce public risk further by using new technologies.''