Dispute over incident at Bentley Heath level crossing - The Solihull Observer

Dispute over incident at Bentley Heath level crossing

Solihull Editorial 8th Dec, 2016   0

CONFLICTING stories have left an incident at Bentley Heath level crossing shrouded in mystery.

Observer sales executives Sadé Williams-Hubball and Monica Talbot were out on calls when their quick-thinking came to the rescue of van driver whose vehicle was trapped under the barriers at the Mill Lane crossing.

The story unfolded as they were waiting at the level crossing at around 12.30pm on Thursday, November 24.

The duo jumped into action when they saw the van (similar to the one pictured) become trapped – running from their car and lifting the barrier so the man could reverse off the tracks.

The cab of the vehicle was lying directly across the line – with a train heading from Dorridge to Birmingham Snow Hill approaching.

It was ‘only a short amount of time – probably less than a minute’ between the van escaping the tracks and the train passing through.

“We couldn’t believe what was happening and had to act quickly – we didn’t even have time to think,” the heroic duo said.

“We just jumped out of the car and started lifting the barrier so the man could reverse to safety and it was just moments between that and the train coming through.”

Exactly what unfolded at the crossing remains disputed.

Our eyewitnesses – Sadé and Monica – claim the van had been waiting at the crossing and, when the barriers went up, began to move forward.

They then claim the barriers came down again without notice – trapping the van underneath them and stranding it across the tracks in the path of the oncoming train.

The incident led to the crossing being closed until 7.50pm that evening.

Network Rail has, however, insisted the barriers did not go up and down as our eyewitnesses believe – but that the van driver had tried to perform the dangerous move of crossing during the barriers’ closure sequence.

The level crossing is operated from a control station in Rugby – around 30 miles away – where it is monitored by CCTV and an alarm system to alert the operator to any problems.

The controller can then operate the barriers, warning lights and control warning lights for oncoming trains.

The Network Rail statement reads: “At around 12.30pm on Thursday 24 November a small pick-up type vehicle attempted to travel across the level crossing at Bentley Heath, Solihull while the closure sequence was in operation.

“The signaller then attempted to stop the closure sequence, however the driver reversed into the barrier that was in the down position, causing the vehicle to get stuck underneath the barrier, damaging it as a result.”

The Observer has, on several occasions, asked Network Rail to provide CCTV footage to resolve the dispute.

We have also spoken to West Midlands Police and British Transport Police, who have been unable to shed any light on the incident.

The firm has refused to provide us with that footage – instead releasing the following statement:

“The incident at Bentley Heath level crossing was reviewed by our level crossing experts and they found there was no dispute surrounding it.

“Network Rail does not issue CCTV footage as a matter of course, it is released to the public if there a need to do so, for example for educational purposes.

“Network Rail is open and transparent surrounding incidents at level crossings, the most recent being the death of a woman at level crossing in Buckinghamshire.

“However, to reiterate, there has been no dispute regarding the circumstances of this incident so there is no necessity to issue the footage in this instance.”

* Were you the driver involved in the incident? call the newsdesk on 01926 317109 or email: [email protected].


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