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January 31, 2012

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Network Rail admits three safety breaches over level-crossing deaths

Network Rail has pleaded guilty to three breaches of safety legislation in relation to the deaths of two teenagers at a level crossing in Essex six years ago.

At a hearing in Basildon Magistrates’ Court today (31 January) the company admitted breaching regulations 3(1) (b) and 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, as well as section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.

Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13, were hit by a train as they crossed the tracks via the station footpath at Elsenham, near Bishop’s Stortford. The girls had been able to access the crossing via unlocked wicket gates. Safety features, including locked gates, were introduced in September 2006.

An inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death in 2007 but, following its own investigation into the incident, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) announced in November last year that it would prosecute Network Rail, after further documents from the company came to light. It is alleged that the company had been aware of safety concerns at the Elsenham crossing since 2002.

After the plea was entered today, the ORR said: “Our thoughts are with the families of Olivia and Charlotte. ORR will do everything it can to ensure that the prosecution proceeds as quickly as possible.”

Olivia’s father, Chris Bazlinton, welcomed the guilty plea, telling the BBC: “It proves we have been lied to over the years.” He added: “I believe there are still many specific questions about what happened, which are still unanswered, and generally about why the revelations only emerged over the past 12 months – six years after the accident.”

The case was committed to Chelmsford Crown Court for a sentencing hearing on 15 March.

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12 years ago

2 young girls just finished school happy to be on there way home. 2 young girls are going to take risk if the problem is there for them there kids its what they do. the big problem lies with the railway they should of had workers checking them regular to make shore they were locked with a pad lock. kids on there way home do not look at lights and signs there to busy talking about fashion and lads. never trust a static sign to do the job were trains are concerned.

12 years ago

Based on reports I have read the 2 girls chose to open a gate and walk across an operational railway line when sirens & red lights were still flashing indicating that another train was approaching. A train does not have any choice, it cannot stop, look and listen before crossing a footpath, therefore anybody ignoring information they are presented with has to accept the consequences of their actions. Locking gates lead to assumptions that if a gate opens all is well, which is not always the case

12 years ago

As I understand it the girls saw a train pass but did not realise another was coming from the opposite direction. Hence they walked into the path of the oncoming train. A tragedy.
There is no good reason why the gates should be able to be opened when a train is approaching. Young people do not always have the sense of danger that older and more wiser folk have. That is why NWR is being prosecuted.