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Jury considers verdict in Moreton-on-Lugg level crossing trial
3:32pm Friday 22nd February 2013 in News
THE jury are still deliberating whether a signalman and Network Rail should have done more to prevent the death of a woman at a Herefordshire level crossing.
Jane Harding died after the car she was travelling in was in collision with a train travelling at 61mph through Moreton-on-Lugg in January 2010. The 52- year-old’s husband Mark, who was driving, survived.
Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court have heard that signalman Adrian Maund lifted the barriers after he thought that a train heading from Leominster had passed the crossing.
Mrs Harding, a hairdresser from Marden and a mother of one, was airlifted to Hereford County Hospital, but died from her injuries.
Carol Anne Thornewell and her 12- year-old daughter, were also involved in the collision, but survived.
But Maund, who had worked at the Moreton-on- Lugg signal box for 19 years, said that there were extenuating circumstances which led to his fatal error.
The court heard that a farmer had phoned Maund on two separate occasions asking if he could take his sheep across the line, only to be told that it was unsafe to do so because two trains travelling in opposite directions were shortly expected to arrive.
The distraction meant that Maund thought that the initial train had passed because he could still see cars waiting at the crossing and heard their engines revving.
Maund, who regularly worked 12 hour shifts on his own, dealing with up to 40 trains a day, added that he deeply regrets that the accident happened and said it had affected him badly during the past three years.
His defence barrister James Ageros even described his methodical way of working as “like a robot” and the enemy of a signaller is distraction.
But prosecutor Philip Mott said that Maund should still have made extra checks to see if the train had passed and Network Rail should have had an approach locking system installed as a back-up safety measure.
He said that the device, costing less than £40,000, would have prevented the signals being changed and the barriers going up.
The court heard that Network Rail declined to install the locking system during renewal works at the Moreton crossing in 2009, despite them being considered at earlier meetings with the Office for Rail Regulation (ORR).
But Prashant Popat, a defence barrister representing Network Rail, said that there were was no requirement for the system to be fitted and said the device would cost up to ten times more.
Marcus Beard, who assesses the risks at level crossings, added that the Moreton-on-Lugg crossing was calculated as being fairly low risk.
Maund, aged 43, from Caswell Crescent, Leominster, denies failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of railway and railway crossing users by raising the level crossing barriers when it was unsafe to do so.
Network Rail has pleaded not guilty to a separate charge of failing in its duty of care for the health and safety of railway and railway crossing users by not installing an approach locking system.
The jury, consisting of seven women and five men, have been deliberating the case since Tuesday afternoon.
Visit www.herefordtimes.com for updates.