Could crash crossing be one of 500 to close?

The aftermath of the train crash at Silverdale.
The aftermath of the train crash at Silverdale.

Rail bosses have announced a £1m safety drive to close 500 level crossings as an inquiry continues into a near-fatal incident at Silverdale.

Network Rail made the pledge this week, amid a British Transport Police investigation into the car and train smash in which a man fled his car seconds before it was struck by an empty freight train at 50mph last Tuesday, pictured right.

But a spokesman said it was too early to say whether the half-barrier crossing at New Road would be one of those earmarked for the axe, or allocated cash to improve safety.

He said: “We will carry out checks and assessments and consultations with everybody who has some connection to level crossings and decide which have been identified and which will be closed at some point.”

The closures will be phased between now and 2019 as part of measures to improve the safety of junctions across the UK.

It comes after a spate of accidents on crossings in recent years, including ten accidental deaths in 2013.

And trains hit vehicles on ten occasions last year.

In this week’s announcement, Network Rail said they had already spent £131m shutting ten per cent of Britain’s level crossings - 750 - since 2010 and boosting safety at others.

Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations for Network Rail, said: “Successfully closing a crossing isn’t always a straightforward process, so we will need support from local authorities, landowners and the public to help us achieve our new target and improve safety further still.”

The Office of Rail Regulatio (ORR), which has funded the closure and upgrade programme, said Britain’s level crossings were among the safest in Europe but still “pose a significant risk to the public.”

British Transport Police said the investigation into last week’s crash was ongoing.

A 46-year-old man from the Kendal area is thought to have lost control of his silver Ford Fiesta while rounding the approaching bend, resulting in it coming to rest on the track.

He escaped moments before the train, used for carrying nuclear fuel to Sellafield but empty at the time, ploughed into it, dragging it for 300 metres. The train driver was also unhurt.