Report urges Knaresborough crossing safety improvements after train hit tractor

The damaged tractor following the accident (image courtesy of British Transport Police)
The damaged tractor following the accident (image courtesy of British Transport Police)

A report investigating the moment a train crashed into a tractor at a Knaresborough crossing last May has warned the consequences could have been 'much worse'.

On May 14, 2015, a tractor was sliced in half when it was hit by a passenger train carrying 66 people at Oakwood Farm crossing.

None of the passengers reported any injuries but the train driver and the tractor driver were taken to hospital and both released later that evening.

The train did not derail during the crash and an initial report into the accident found that that the warning lights were working at the crossing.

In a report published today, (April 28) the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) explained the lights were on green when the tractor approached the crossing.

However, as the button was too far away from the crossing, by the time he had driven onto the tracks the warning lights had already turned red.

The report states: "Oakwood Farm user worked crossing is one of a small number in the country that had been fitted with remotely operated, powered gates.

"It is likely the tractor driver did not recheck the warning lights after first stopping on the approach to the crossing to press a button to open the gates.

"This button had not originally been intended to open the gates (it should only have been capable of being used to close them).

"There was no sign at the button to warn the driver to recheck the warning light before going over the crossing."

Despite the train driver giving a long blast of the horn and applying the emergency brake, he was unable to stop before crashing into the tractor.

However, the report explained that the train was unable to reduce its speed in the 'short period' and hit the train at 65mph.

The front of the train was left damaged, coming to a stop 468 metres down the track with one of the tractor's wheels wedged under the front.

RAIB said that the underlying cause of the accident was that Network Rail did not ensure risks as the crossing were 'adequately mitigated'.

They also said that Network Rail did not properly manage the process for the introduction of the gate operating equipment.

Network Rail have now been requested to undertake a comprehensive review of the safety of the crossing at Oakwood Farm in light of the report's findings.

RAIB has also recommended that the safety of other user worked crossings with remotely operated gate opening equipted be reviewed as well.