Drivers in rail crossing death gamble

MORE than 20 drivers who ignored flashing warning lights and drove round barriers at a Suffolk railway crossing were condemned as irresponsible today.Motorist Maggie Williamson said she looked on in disbelief as, despite the danger signs, cars and vans weaved through the crossing outside the Westerfield Railway pub.

MORE than 20 drivers who ignored flashing warning lights and drove round barriers at a Suffolk railway crossing were condemned as irresponsible today.

Motorist Maggie Williamson said she looked on in disbelief as, despite the danger signs, cars and vans weaved through the crossing outside the Westerfield Railway pub.

Mrs Williamson estimated around 25 drivers ignored the stop signs after the barriers remained down for around ten minutes.

Today, acting sergeant Paul Thompson, of the British Transport police at Ipswich railway station, said ignoring warning lights, even if you believed the bars or gates were stuck, was illegal.

Sgt Thompson said: "The flashing lights are the same as a traffic signal. Although it is dangerous to ignore them on a normal road, that danger is increased substantially because trains are unable to stop immediately."

Only last November at Ufton Nervet, Berkshire, seven people were killed when a passenger train derailed after smashing into a car.

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Sgt Thompson said a collision at Westerfield with a goods or passenger train could also end in tragedy.

He said: "It would be likely the driver of the vehicle would be killed and the train derailed."

His colleague Pc Phil Harrod echoed the warning and said: "It is very dangerous for people to put their lives, and the lives of others on the railway, at risk. The red lights and barriers are there for a reason. If we find anyone doing it we will pursue the matter very seriously."

The incident at Westerfield occurred as Mrs Williamson and her husband, Joe, were driving towards Ipswich at 7.50am yesterday.

Mrs Williamson, who lives in Westerfield, said: "I couldn't believe it. It was irresponsible. In the morning there is often a goods train that comes through and they come through quite fast.

"There was a lot of traffic. We were way, way down the road. A lot of cars were turning and going back. As we got closer to the crossing people were weaving through it. A good couple of dozen vehicles went across. There was definitely nobody waving them through.

"One car came round the barriers and he had a van right behind him as they came across together.

"You can't see for a long way as the track curves round there. It's very dangerous."

Mrs Williamson said rather than risk a crash, she and her husband turned their car round and took a detour through Tuddenham to complete their journey.

It is believed a train, which triggered the crossing gates, was in the vicinity, although it may have been stationary at the time. There were no reports of the barriers being stuck.

Jenny Sacre, spokeswoman for Network Rail said: "It is very unusual for that crossing to be down for that length of time. We will be investigating what happened. Even though the barriers were down, people should not have been zig-zagging through them."

n If you see anyone ignore warnings at a level crossing telephone the British Transport police on 01473 601978.

n What do you think should happen to people who endanger the lives of others on level crossings? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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