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Report into death of Stanley Sawyer, 82, who was struck by a train at Trimley St Martin crossing

PUBLISHED: 11:27 21 November 2016 | UPDATED: 17:10 21 November 2016

The rail crossing on Grimston Lane in Trimley St Martin.

The rail crossing on Grimston Lane in Trimley St Martin.

An 82-year-old pedestrian raised his arm in apparent acknowledgement of a driver's warning horn before he was hit and killed by the train, an investigation has found.

Stanley Sawyer, of High Road, Felixstowe, died when he was struck by a train at the Grimston Lane footpath level crossing in Trimley St Martin at 12.19pm on February 23. The train was travelling from Ipswich to Felixstowe.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) of the Department for Transport has made two recommendations to Network Rail as a result of its report into the collision.

One relates to the importance of understanding the dangers of footpaths that cross a railway line at an angle, as the Grimston Lane crossing did.

The second relates to reducing the risk to vulnerable level crossing users as it upgrades “passive crossings”, which are not provided with equipment to warn people of approaching trains.

Simon French, chief inspector of rail accidents, said: “Our report into the tragic accident at Grimston Lane level crossing serves as a reminder of some important issues affecting the safety of footpath level crossings.

“I believe that the railway industry needs to better understand the extent to which skewed crossings affect the safety of users, particularly those classed as vulnerable.

“Since skewed crossings do not cross the line at 90°, they lengthen the path across the railway and require some users to look over their shoulder to see an oncoming train. There is evidence to suggest that these characteristics may make it more difficult for some elderly people to use such crossings safely.”

Richard Schofield, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said since the incident the authority had straightened the crossing and improved sighting by removing an old level crossing attendant’s hut.

He added: “We are currently reviewing and carrying out improvements to all level crossings that have a skewed alignment.”

RAIB found the driver sounded the train’s warning horn soon after first seeing the pedestrian. Mr Sawyer raised his arm in apparent acknowledgment of the horn and continued to cross in front of the train.

His age and health meant that Mr Sawyer fell into the category of people considered, by Network Rail’s guidance, to be vulnerable.

The report looked into the possible reasons why Mr Sawyer started to cross the railway when he had insufficient time to do so. It concluded that he was either unaware of the train at the time he decided to cross, or he misjudged the time he needed.

An inquest in May into Mr Sawyer’s death registered it as accidental.

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