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Signalman Adrian Maund and Network Rail both found guilty of health and safety breaches following Jane Harding's death
THE husband of a Herefordshire woman who died following a collision between her car and a train at a level crossing has given his reaction after the signalman who raised the barriers and Network Rail were found guilty of health and safety breaches.
Jane Harding was with her husband Mark in their black Volkswagen Tourareg when the accident happened at Moreton-on-Lugg in January 2010.
Mark sustained serious shoulder and pelvic injures, but survived.
"Three years ago we lost an extremely special person in an accident that could and should have been prevented," said Mr Harding.
"I only know that had Network Rail installed available engineer protection at the crossing or the signalman had not raised the barriers on that fateful day we would and should not be here today."
Another car, containing Carol Anne Thornwell and her 12-year-old daughter, was also involved in the collision, but both survived the crash.
A three week trial at Birmingham Crown Court heard that Adrian Maund raised the barriers after he thought that a Manchester to Milford Haven train had passed the crossing.
The 43-year-old, from Caswell Crescent, Leominster, said that he became distracted after taking two phone calls from a farmer asking if he could cross his flock of sheep.
The court also heard that Network Rail had failed to install an approach locking system at the crossing, which prosecutor Philip Mott claimed, would have prevented Maund from changing the signals and raising the barriers.
Mr Mott said that the device would have cost less than £40,000 to install, although Prashant Popat, representing Network Rail, said that it would have cost up to 10 times as much.
Since the accident, alterations have been made at Moreton-on-Lugg and other similar crossing in the country to prevent a similar incident happening again.
"Mrs Harding's death at Moreton-on-Lugg level crossing was a tragedy that has had a profound impact upon many families and railway staff," Network Rail said in a statement.
"We are deeply sorry that through no fault of their own, the Hardings found themselves involved in a fatal train accident."
Jayne Salt, head of the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said that both Maund and Network Rail had played a part in Mrs Harding's death.
“Mr Maund made a mistake in raising the level crossing barriers when a train was approaching.
"Whilst his was a momentary error, his failure to follow procedures and checks, as he had been trained to do, has rightly resulted in his conviction," she said.
“His employers, on the other hand, made a deliberate decision not to install a safety device which would have detected the oncoming train and kept the barriers down. That decision was based on cost.
“It is right that an organisation that holds the safety of the public in its hands on a daily basis has been held to account for its decision making.
Maund was found guilty of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of railway and railway crossing users by raising the barriers when it was unsafe to do so, while Network Rail were found guilty of failing in its duty of care for the health and safety of railway and railway crossing users by not installing an approach lockign system at the Moreton-on-Lugg crossing.
The jury, consisting of seven women and five men, took three-and-a-half days to reach their unanimous verdict.
Both Maund and Network Rail are due to be sentenced in April.
• For the full court hearing and further reaction, see Thursday's Hereford Times.