March 2010 in Network Rail and Suppliers
A reporter is concerned that the increase in road traffic over Green Oak Goit crossing, coupled with the current operations system, has increased the workload of both crossing keepers and signallers to the point where an accident is becoming more and more likely.
The crossing used to be protected by indicators, which told the crossing keeper whether a train was approaching. About two years ago concerns were raised over whether the indicators were working properly, and as a result of this it was decided that crossing keepers should telephone the signaller at Gilberdyke signal box and ask for protection whenever a vehicle wanted to cross. This was supposed to be a temporary measure, expected to last six months, but more than two years later this system is still in place. Repeater indicators were supposed to be installed for the crossing keepers, but this has not happened.
In the past year the volume of traffic has increased exponentially according to the reporter, seemingly because drivers are frequently being directed over the crossing by their GPS systems and sat navs. This means that the crossing keeper has to call the signaller 10 to 15 times per hour, where it used to be only a couple of times per hour.
This puts a lot of stress on both parties, but particularly on the signaller who also has to monitor other crossings in the area.
The reporter is concerned that this situation has an impact on the quality of the safety critical conversations between crossing keeper and signaller. The large number of calls can to lead to complacency and vital information might be missed or not communicated correctly. This is especially dangerous when two trains are approaching the crossing as there is no track circuit on this piece of line; the signaller relies on the crossing keeper to know when both trains have cleared the crossing, which leaves wide room for human error.
Would Network Rail consider the following points?
Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for raising their concerns.
Some of the information in the report is inaccurate so we would like to correct that. The working at Green Oak Goit came about because of a near miss involving a member of staff and the indicators were never proved to not be working correctly. However, it was deemed necessary to introduce the current method of working because the crossing keeper on duty could not see a change in the indicators from the crossing.
With regard to the traffic over the crossing, there are times of the day when traffic is busy but these are the usual times when people are going to work/school and returning from work/school when there is the potential for 10-15 swings in an hour. However, the majority of the time the amount of swings will be less than half that number per hour.
The signaller at Gilberdyke gives protection to Green Oak Goit once all trains have passed the crossing and it is clear for people to cross as per the instructions for all user worked crossings. They do not rely on the crossing keepers to tell them when the train has passed, and they do have indications on their diagram to show them when a train has passed clear.
The working at Green Oak Goit has been kept under review since the event and numerous things have been done to try and solve the issue. The crossing has been risk assessed by two different people to check that the method of work was safe and sufficient. We have arranged for the crossing (and signal boxes either side) to be assessed twice by the signalling design team to find a solution to the problem. After several options and quotations it was decided that repeating indicators would be installed on the crossing in order to remove the need to ring Gilberdyke for protection. Repeating indicators have been sourced and are awaiting design and installation.
We hope this goes some way to answer the concerns of the reporter.