Bassetlaw: Network Rail ‘sorry’ for inadequate lights on crossing where girl, four, died

Network Rail has apologised because the warning lights on the Bassetlaw level crossing where a four-year-old girl suffered fatal injuries were not bright enough.

Friday, 2nd May 2014, 11:52 am

An expert giving evidence at the Nottingham inquest into Emma Lifsey’s death in December 2012 at Beech Hill crossing, Misson Springs, stated they were ‘the worst red lights he had seen’.

After the jury concluded that Emma died as the result of an accident, Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail said: “I apologise to Emma Lifsey’s family for any contribution the condition of the lights at Beech Hill crossing may have made to her tragic accident.”

“My team and I are fully committed to reducing risk at level crossings wherever possible.”

Images from the RAIB report, published on 24/9/13, into the fatal crash at the Beech Hill level crossing near Finningley on 4/12/12 where four-year-old Emma Lifsey was killed. The approach to the level crossing taken the following day at a similar time to the crash, showing difficulties in visibility with wet roads and low sunlight.

“We have replaced the lamps in the warning lights at Beech Hill and have a prioritised programme of replacement at all crossings that have the same lamps, with brighter LED lights which are easier to see in poor light conditions.”

Emma, of Blackmoor Road, Haxey, was in a car driven by her grandmother, Dianne Jarrett, when it went through the automatic barrier and collided with a passenger train on the Doncaster-Lincoln line.

The little girl died from a traumatic brain injury the following day in hospital in Sheffield.

Mrs Jarrett, who lives in Bawtry, had used the crossing hundreds of times but on that day saw the red lights at the last second because of glare from a low sun and a wet road surface.

Hugh Barton, an optical consultant, said the 36 watt filament bulbs on the Beech Hill level crossing were the “worst red lights he had seen at a level crossing.”

Witness Catherine Hart, who was driving behind Mrs Jarrett, told Nottingham Coroner’s Court: “It was very wet on the ground and very sunny.

“The sun was reflecting off the floor which made it even worse, you couldn’t actually see the lights unless you dipped your head down under the visor,” she said.

“I saw the barrier was down and the lights and that’s when the car in front’s brake lights came on. I stopped my car and that’s when the train came and hit the car. I didn’t think there’d be anything left. It was like a bomb had exploded.”

After the collision the Rail Accident Investigation Branch sent out an urgent safety measure message saying the 36W bulbs should be changed.

Assistant coroner Heidi Connor accepted Network Rail had made some improvements to crossings using this type of light, but said they needed to make changes more quickly.#

Emma’s parents said in a statement read out to the court by her grandfather, Peter Jarrett, her death had left a gaping hole in the lives and hearts of her family.

They described her as a cheeky, active very happy child who was rarely seen without a huge gleaming smile on her face.

She enjoyed singing and playing instruments and had attended the Thurlow Pre-school in Epworth and then Haxey Pre-school.

They said: “She loved exploring and learning new things and she especially enjoyed messy play. She always enjoyed water whether she was in the bath or swimming in the pool.”

“Emma loved animals and regularly walked our chocolate Labrador Fudge. She had a special interest in horses and we told her when she was five she could start riding lessons and she was extremely excited about that.”

“She often chose to be out in the garden and loved helping with digging, planting and especially collecting leaves.”

“Although she loved Peppa Pig and all things pink she wasn’t a girly girl and she loved rough and tumble. She was certainly a socialite. Everyone remembers her for her happy smile and infectious laugh.”

“She would often throw her arms round us and say that she loved us.”

“Her death has left a gaping hole in our lives and hearts and not a week, day, hour or minute passes without her in our thoughts.”