Time for action to improve rail crossing safety

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Latest campaign news from the Suffolk Free Press, suffolkfreepress.co.uk, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

The father of a teenager killed on a level crossing has backed plans to improve the “hopelessly out of date” safety at rail crossings.

Charlotte Thompson, 13, and her best friend Olivia Bazington, 14, died after being hit by a train at Elsenham station, in Essex, in December, 2005.

The pair were on their way to Cambridge for a Christmas shopping trip when they rushed across tracks to catch the train.

Following a recent government inquiry into crossings, rail regulators have increased funding to Network Rail, so better safety measures can be brought in.

Charlotte’s father, Reg Thompson, who lives in Sudbury, said it was about time improvements were made.

“This investment in safety desperately needs to take place, rather than just be talked about,” said the 56-year-old.

“I hope this will allow National Rail to start making progress, as I don’t think enough has been done up until now and the blame for deaths has been shifted on to the victims.”

Last year, Network Rail was fined £1million over the girls’ death after admitting breaching health and safety regulations.

Mr Thompson, the brother of Sudbury businessman David Thompson, said he hoped the decision to increase funding for level crossings by £32milion to £109million would save lives.

“I am pleased that this is happening,” he said.

“Network Rail has consistently blamed victims and made them out to be the architectures of their own downfall.

“But in the case of my daughter and her friend Liv, it was because safety precautions were hopelessly out of date.”

Mr Thompson added that prior to his daughter’s death, safety at Elsenham had not been updated for 30 years, despite trains increasing eight-fold in that time.

“National Rail now has to do what it is told,” he said.

A spokesman for National Rail said: “We have promised that we are committed to making our railway as safe as possible and that remains our focus.”