Pleas for action over ‘notorious’ rail crossings after six tragic deaths

The level crossing at Tempsford.  Photo: Google
The level crossing at Tempsford. Photo: Google

Six deaths within a year on a railway line through Chronicle country have triggered a call for Network Rail to take action.

Trains reach a speed of around 150mph on the Great Northern route around Tempsford, a meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council heard yesterday.

Potton councillor Doreen Gurney described the fatalities as “totally unacceptable” in a motion put to councillors, saying she felt compelled to speak about the issue.

“The level crossing at Temspford is at the fastest stretch of the line between King’s Cross and Edinburgh,” she said.

“It’s a notorious area for suicides, with six in the last year between Langford and Everton Tempsford crossing.

“Between Langford and Biggleswade there are four foot crossings, and this one can also be a foot crossing. It’s a very busy line.

“Three weeks ago, I was speaking to two men working for CBC tidying the village up.

“Along comes a woman at midday, jumps out of a car and gives one of the workmen a two-year-old child, just plunged her into his arms.

“The woman said said this child needs to go to hospital, she has swallowed a battery, and I’m going to get her a drink of water.

“She got back in her car, sadly, and drove off a mile away,” added councillor Gurney.

“Unfortunately she took her life on the railway, and left us with a child. We were quite taken aback.”

Sandy councillor Caroline Maudlin, who seconded the motion, said her heart went out to the families and friends who have been affected by tragic events at this crossing and across the network.

“Network Rail is dealing with suicide prevention, and it works with charities such as the Samaritans, with a scheme ‘Small talk saves lives’, and with other stakeholders and agencies.

“This is working. There have been fewer deaths since it started in 2010.

“The emotions, the human and financial costs are disproportionately high, as these instances can take place in view of passengers, station staff and drivers.

“That can lead to more untold mental health issues, let alone the disruption to other passengers and services.

“This motion is important as this crossing at Tempsford is in the open countryside and operated by a controlled station at Peterborough.

“So it’s highly unlikely anyone is nearby to talk or listen, when someone is so desperate, and also unable to stop or distract them.

“A bridge over the line would be perfect, and expensive,” she explained.

“Work was done some time ago, when we thought this was going to happen, but it was stopped.

“An interim idea would be to include additional cameras which could view cars parked up near the crossing, and not just operate up and down the railway line.”

Potton councillor Adam Zerny said: “I echo councillor Maudlin’s remarks about the Samaritans. I think that was a very worthwhile point.

“We’re talking about the line around Sandy, so there are a number of level crossings both north and south of Sandy.

“We’re not talking specifically about the Everton Tempsford crossing where there haven’t been six fatalities in the last year.

“I fear if we leave the wording exactly as it is there’s a good chance Network Rail will merely respond there haven’t been six fatalities there.”

“It is a major problem and something we will need to deal with,” added councillor Ian Dalgarno, who’s the executive member for community services.

“It’s six fatalities in a very short stretch in terms of the size of the network needs to be addressed.

“I will use CBC’s influence to lobby Network Rail for improvements and we will continue to do that.

“But this particularly crossing is a major part of a road network, and I can’t see Network Road closing it in the short-term.

“So I will try to look at other options that we can pursue with Network Rail and ask them how we can improve the barrier systems and detection systems so we can notify train drivers.

“It’s a massive issue for the drivers of those trains when these things happen, as well.”

Conservative Westoning, Flitton and Greenfield councillor James Jamieson said the wording of the motion could remain as it is.

But the leader of the council suggested councillor Dalgarno could mention in his letter that these incidents are on that stretch of line, not just the Everton Tempsford crossing.

Councillor Gurney’s motion asks the executive member for community services to pursue this issue with Network Rail in an attempt to prevent further loss of life.

It received the backing of councillors at Thursday’s (Nov 15th) council meeting.