Network Rail fined £4million for Suffolk level crossing fatality

21 September 2016

Network Rail has been fined £4million for breaches of health and safety law which led to a fatality at Gipsy Lane pedestrian level crossing near Needham Market, Suffolk, in 2011.

Today's sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court follows an investigation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) into the death of Olive McFarland, 82, who was struck while using the crossing by a train travelling from London to Norwich on 24 August 2011.

ORR's investigation found Network Rail had failed to act on substantial evidence that pedestrians had poor visibility of trains when approaching Gipsy Lane footpath crossing, and were exposed to an increased risk of being struck by a train.

Network Rail pleaded guilty to the charge on 28 June 2016, at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court.

Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways said:

Today's sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court brings to a close our prosecution of Network Rail for failures which contributed to the death of Ms Olive McFarland. My thoughts are with Ms McFarland’s family.
In 2011, Network Rail’s safety management fell below the standards required, putting members of the public using Gipsy Lane footpath crossing in unnecessary danger.
Over the past decade, Network Rail has focussed its attention and investment on improving health and safety on Britain’s railways. However, despite now being ranked as the safest in Europe, there can be no room for complacency.
Rail safety remains a top priority for the regulator. We will always take action against companies or individuals if failings are found.

Notes to editors

  1. Network Rail was also ordered to pay costs of £35,000.
  2. ORR prosecuted Network Rail under a breach of Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
  3. Following the incident in 2011, Network Rail immediately acted to improve safety at Gipsy Lane footpath crossing by redesigning its layout and implementing a speed restriction for trains. The speed restriction remains in place to the present day. The company is currently progressing plans to replace the crossing with a footbridge.
  4. Since 2009-10, encouraged by ORR, Network Rail has closed over 1,000 crossings, including 76 in 2015-16.
  5. ORR’s Annual Health and Safety Report of Performance on Britain’s Railways: 2015-16 can be found on our website at: http://orr.gov.uk/what-and-how-we-regulate/health-and-safety/monitoring-and-reporting/annual-health-and-safety-annual-report-2016. It specifically flags the importance of attention to safety at level crossings.
  6. The Office of Rail and Road is the UK’s rail regulator and strategic roads monitor for England. Follow us @railandroad.